My mother was a story teller who told stories all her life: of her childhood in France, going to Catholic schools run by nuns, life in her twenties after World War II in Paris; of my sister and me growing up first in France and later in Pinole, California; and of our many family vacations. I was always amazed at her ability to recount details, which I attribute now to her brilliant memory, being highly organized, her practice of reading a book every week, her attention to detail, and her practice of always being well-prepared — all traits that served her well in effectively managing our family of four.
I vividly remember the day my mother’s doctor informed us that she had ovarian cancer and that it was already in stage three. Despite the shock and subsequent difficult emotions my family and I experienced, my mother’s amazing memory and organizational abilities continued to help the family as we entered the last phase of her life. For years she made a point of regularly discussing her affairs with her children, including how to handle her financial affairs if she were not able to do so herself.
My father had passed away more than ten years before her cancer diagnosis, and my sister and I had been helping my mother during this period with some of her financial decisions, so I knew the basics of her financial situation, e.g., the location of her bank accounts, where the checkbook was kept, the amount of her social security benefits, and a record of her active credit cards. I thought it strange and a bit quirky when she first asked me to go with her to her local bank so she could add me as a signatory on the safety deposit box, show me the contents of the box, and indicate what to do with the heirlooms from her mother and grandmother. We visited the safety deposit box a few times in that first year after my father passed away. In retrospect, I see that his death made her more aware of her own mortality, even though it would be many years before she was diagnosed with her own terminal illness.
Now that I am a financial advisor and certified financial planner, I can appreciate more than ever the importance of all of these matters, including accompanying mom to meet with her estate planning attorney right after my father passed away to read through the details of the living trust created years earlier. I remember thinking how complicated things had become as I tried to understand the complexities of a bypass trust, a marital trust, and how titling works after someone dies.
Little did I know then that these experiences my mother and I went through together would one day be helpful to me in guiding clients through the financial process at Bell, would become steps recommended by our financial planning team, and would reappear in our recent webinar and seminar presentations called Preparing for Tomorrow’s Transitions Today. My personal experience certainly enhanced my research for this educational presentation and has given me a unique perspective in understanding the importance of being prepared for when someone close becomes seriously ill. A good financial plan that includes key information you will need during your own transitions can also be a great gift to your heirs when the time comes for them to make sense of your financial situation.
Preparing for expected and unexpected life events is not just recommended, it is vital that you discuss and prepare for these events with your spouse, partner, or family. We recommend that all responsible adults, not simply those whose parents are in their senior years, take steps to financially prepare for the future. Life transitions such as marriage and/or the birth of a child can also trigger the need for a financial plan. We encourage you to check our Life Event Checklist, produced in preparation for the above webinar and seminar, here, and if you missed the presentation, view the video in its entirety here.
In my own case, I have a tremendous sense of satisfaction and comfort that I was able to be there for my mom to help her through some of the most challenging transitions in her long and memorable life. I also have an abiding sense of gratitude to her for providing my sister and me with a road map to follow in our own major life transition — the loss of our remarkable mother.
If you have any questions or would like to set up a free consultation to discuss your own personal and financial situation or to learn how our financial planning services might be of help to you, please feel free to call us at 1-800-700-0089 or email us at email@example.com.