This past month my grandmother, Ruth Schoenberger, passed away. She was 96, nearly 97, and lived a wonderful life. I was so fortunate to have her in my life for so many years, not only as my grandmother, but also as my next door neighbor from age 5 until I moved out of my parent's house. It was a special relationship, to say the least.
Since finishing law school I have always worked in a field that deals with the loss of loved ones: estate planning, life insurance, and now financial advising. Despite working in a world that often focuses on end-of-life planning, it doesn't make a loss any easier. Grief is real and we each need to figure out how we cope, how we move on, and how we keep a loved one's memory alive.
Reflecting on this in the wake of my grandmother’s passing, I want to share three specific ways that Open Door Financial helps clients plan for and address this reality that none of us are able to escape: Legacy planning, family meetings, and estate administration.
Legacy - Family - Estate
Legacy planning is the process by which we help clients identify and document their values. Family meetings are one of the vehicles we use to help clients transmit those values, and their financial goals, to loved ones. And estate administration is how we help surviving spouses, children, heirs, and other beneficiaries effectively and efficiently receive the gifts that have been left, and use them for fulfilling purposes.
For my grandmother, her youngest grandchild was nearly 30. All of us had the chance to see her legacy first and live it alongside her. If you knew her, you know this meant a passion about the well being of others. Whether you were a lifelong friend or a new acquaintance, she wants to learn about you and understand what you cared about, in the most sincere way. You knew that on your birthday each year you would get a call and hear her sing. You also got calls on anniversaries, before holidays, and throughout the year. And not just for her family, but many others as well. Her legacy was both long and meaningful conversations as well as short and sincere gestures.
In addition, to capture her legacy a number of grandchildren interviewed her and my grandfather on video, about their lives, their experiences, and their values. Family meetings were not in a board room, but in a living room, around a dinner table, or during the commercial breaks of Wheel of Fortune.
And, after 96 years her estate administration was not overly complicated, but she was still able to leave a small financial and significant sentimental legacy to her family who will put both to good use in her memory.
My goal, as a financial planner is to make sure that people get to focus on the meaning, while we handle the minutia. We want to help clients consider and work through their emotions related to a loss, and not get frustrated with confusing paperwork and lose patience with phone calls and emails to make sense of what is left.
We don't always have a silver bullet to solve all the issues at once, but we have experience and dedication and want to help protect all of the positive aspects, good memories, and inherited assets that loved ones have worked to provide.
My grandmother will be missed, but she will be remembered. I hope all of you are as lucky as I am to have such a special person in your life. If we can be of assistance in anyway regarding legacy planning, for family meetings, or estate planning, please let us know. Its more than a job for us, it’s a passion that we are privileged to share.