Blog with Joel Brookman

End of Life

This weekend I flew my family to Providence to say what may be our final good-bye to my hero, the man I love and respect most in the world, my father. At age 82, he has recently been diagnosed with the most severe form of Leukemia. His doctors are telling him that he has very little time left. What’s amazing is that he looks great and aside from a shortness of breath and getting tired more frequently, you wouldn’t know he is sick. It gave me a chance to listen to him and gain an understanding of his wishes: for our family, my mother, and his affairs. I am thankful for this opportunity because many people don’t get it.

As difficult as it was for me to have the end of life conversation with my father, it highlighted the inevitable fact that we will all die one day. Not facing this fact and failing to plan will not prevent it from happening.

When people get diagnosed with a terminal illness they are told to get their affairs in order. What if things happen suddenly and you don’t get that opportunity? If you have children this is extremely important. Your responsibility as a parent is to take care of your children. Ensuring your affairs are in order is a critical part of that responsibility.

What does it mean to get your affairs in order?

It means that you take the necessary steps to make sure that your loved ones understand your wishes, and that you don’t make an already life-altering situation more complicated or stressful for them. Assuming you have assets, have you done everything possible to ensure that they are made available to your heirs in the simplest most tax efficient way possible? Have you clearly articulated who should get what? I witnessed my wife’s family splinter when her grandmother died. Had the instructions for asset distribution been clearer, the problem could have been averted.

Consider gifting some of your possessions while you are here

When we leave things to others, we do it with the intention of positively impacting their lives. The last thing we want are family issues resulting from entitlement. Unfortunately, when there are multiple beneficiaries involved, the disposition of assets often brings out the worst in people. As you age, if there are possessions you have that you can do without, consider gifting them while you are still here. You can receive appreciation for the gift, and have the chance to avert potential conflicts that could occur after you’re gone. For those assets you choose not to part with, think about having a discussion with your beneficiaries. This gives you the chance to explain the “why” behind your decisions.

Create a living will

If you are incapacitated and decisions need to be made, what would you want done? I’m sure you have heard horror stories of people kept alive on life support when their minds are no longer intact. Imagine the challenges faced by loved ones when they are forced to make these life and death decisions. This is why you should consider the creation of a living will. It is a legally binding document that instructs health care providers of your wishes.

Hire a professional

Estate planning attorneys are experts at making the preparations for wills and trusts. Their experience can help you think through and plan for many of the potential issues that lie ahead. They can help you to be sure you have done everything you can to protect the assets you have and that those most important to you are recognized.

Understand the wishes of those closest to you. What would they want said about them? What are their preferences for funeral arrangements? What would they like their loved ones to know? Having these discussions with my father was upsetting, but I am now in a position to carry out his desires. The most important thing to my father is his family. Through his end of life planning, his discussions with my mother, myself and two brothers, and the values he instilled in us all, I know that we will always remain close and proudly carry his legacy forward.


Posted by Joel Brookman in appreciation, how you will be remembered, legacy, Plan your life and tagged , .


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