Recording our lives for our kids allows us to reflect on our own sense of balance and reveals our hopes for the future and our thoughts on the past.
by Colin Smith | Contributor
There was a great one-liner in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that has stuck with me over the years: “Life moves by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” As we get older, the world seems to be moving so much faster, and despite the advances in technology, we have less free time than we ever did—leaving us more unbalanced than we have ever been as a society. Once in a while, we have to hit the reset button, and I love being able to help people do so.
When a new client calls, I give them forms and questionnaires—not the kind that you would fill out at a doctor’s office but questions about the client’s personal life. The theory is if someone takes the time to fill them out, then the children and other loved ones can read these forms to remember and learn things about that person who they may or may not have known.
Simply put: if someone doesn’t undertake this type of exercise when putting together an estate plan, then when? Estate planning has many goals; most of which involve money in some way. Yet, money can be fleeting. A lifetime of lessons from experiences, memories and relationships from those we love are far more lingering and valuable.
These voluminous forms and questionnaires help in several ways. First of all, minor children who stand to inherit a substantial sum of money may not know the family history or even who is in it. They may be approached by someone introducing themselves as a long-lost relative who has no such status. If your children don’t have a family tree or history recorded, it may be hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.
Secondly, they give closure. Should your estate give a particular sentimental item to one child but not another, the second child may feel slighted. If you explain the reasons why, then the children may understand. (After a certain point, they can’t go back and ask why.)
Your family will also get to know you better. They’ll know better not only what you did for a living, but what challenges you overcame, what you did for fun, what experiences you had to share and so on. Some things are easier to write down than to explain face-to-face, and this gives the writer such an opportunity.
Next, the completed forms give perspective. If you lost a grandparent when you were in your 20s, you may wonder later in life what your late grandparent was going through when he or she was 40 or 50. Having these forms can be like having someone’s diary.
Most importantly, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to reflect. Children will eventually grow up and move out of the house (we hope.) In order to maintain balance after they leave, we have to find some way to fill the void. Reflecting on what we have done in the past may lead us to realize what we haven’t had time to do and open up a world of choices. So…if you feel like life is moving pretty fast, it might be time to play a little hooky and go to a baseball game. Just be sure you’re ready to be on the jumbo screen like Ferris Bueller!
Reach Colin Smith at colinsmithlaw.com.