Recently, Karin wrote an article that received high marks. In her blog, “Beyond The Estate Plan: A Final Instruction Letter,” she mentioned a checklist of what to include in a Final Instructions Letter. Several people have called our office to receive that checklist, and that got me thinking…..
As they say, “Giving is better than receiving” and the older I get, the more and more true that becomes for me. However, I have had one situation in which “receiving” was one of the best things that could happen to me. Thinking as a parent: “What if I gave my kids a checklist of all my final wishes, key contacts, and account locations to them as a gift this year? Would that be better than another ugly Christmas sweater or a gift card to Home Depot?”
I can speak from experience, and that is exactly what I wanted (and received) a few years ago.
Final Planning is generally not a fun topic so I was not looking forward to having this conversation with my father. But, after broaching the subject with him, he grudgingly agreed to go with me to the local funeral home and “just get it done.” It actually turned out to be a wonderful family experience.
At this meeting, I learned…
- Dad wanted the least expensive casket - to preserve funds for my sister and me.
- He wanted a bible verse on his funeral program, but felt my faith had grown so much that I was better at picking one than he was.
- He wanted a simple headstone.
- He was very specific about the location where he wanted to be buried - in a family plot (which took some negotiating ahead of time).
- and most important to him…
- HE WANTED ELVIS GOSPEL MUSIC TO BE PLAYED AT HIS FUNERAL!
You see, I thought I knew my dad, and he knew me. But at this meeting, we learned even more about each other. We laughed, had a couple teary-eyed moments and gained a new respect for each other that was deeper than it had been before. I learned that material items meant very little to him, and that all he really cared about was my sister and me. I learned that he was proud of my faith journey. And I learned that he really LOVES Elvis music. It represents his Mid-Western past, and it reminds him of a simpler time that puts a smile on his face, and hopefully will do the same for others that hear it someday.
By all means, get your adult kids some of the things on their Christmas lists - or on the lists of your grandkids. But when all the gifts are opened and wrapping paper is everywhere, give them this one last gift - one that really matters, and will make their lives so much easier some day when you’re gone. If your experience is like mine, it will be the best gift you may receive this holiday - one that may form a greater bond with your kids until the Elvis music plays.
Click here for the checklist of what to include in your Final Instructions Letter.
I hope you have a very Merry Christmas! God Bless you and yours.