Have you had that conversation with your children?
You know the one. About getting your affairs in order? Your end-of-life plans?
One of the most difficult parts of my end-of-life planning was talking to my oldest son about my future wishes. He’s now in his 30s and has children of his own. It should have been straightforward, right? Well, it wasn’t.
Since we live far apart, we only manage to meet in person every few months or so. I was only in town for a few days and I didn’t want to spoil the fun of being together. The focus was on the grandchildren, not death.
Finally, with only a few hours before I was due to leave, I thought I’d found an opportunity to talk. I confess I was nervous, more than I thought I’d be at initiating the discussion. In my nervousness, I jumped right in and began with the words, “When I die”. As soon as they came tumbling out of my mouth I realized something was wrong. I saw the look of misinterpretation on my son’s face followed by “Are you dying, Dad?”
“No, no, no,” I stuttered, trying to reassure him but his tears told otherwise. It doesn’t matter how old our children are — they don’t like to think about their parents dying. In retrospect, I should have been more sensitive — I’d overlooked the fact that in the last 5 years, he’d grieved the loss of a dear aunt and uncle and a close friend in quick succession — all sudden and at a relatively young age. The very thought of his father dying was too much to bear.
We changed the subject.
My second attempt a few months later was a little better. I began with my reassurance that I wasn’t dying before talking about the practical matters like where he could find a copy of the will and powers-of-attorney forms and other important papers. I informed him that one of my younger brothers was the Executor but I wanted him to assist my brother where possible. That opened up the question of why I hadn’t chosen my son to be my Executor.
I would have, I explained, except that I wanted someone who could easily visit the bank, my lawyer, and my financial advisor. Being an Executor comes with a lot of responsibility and my brother had done it a couple of times before. Unfortunately, the conversation veered off course when my son had…