It’s nearly impossible to find the right words after a sudden and tragic death. We just lost basketball icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter who were traveling for her basketball game. In 1972 baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on his way to Nicaragua to help earthquake survivors.
My family dealt with tragedy years ago when, just two weeks shy of graduating from high school, my nephew was killed by a drunk driver. The point is that life is fragile for each and every one of us. Wealthy or poor, good or bad, famous or obscure, it doesn’t matter. Everything about your life, anyone’s life, can change in the blink of an eye.
When family members are heartbroken, in shock and disbelief, the last thing they want to discuss is money or anything related to financial issues. The suddenness of any accident makes the days that follow surreal. But money conversations and financial decisions can quickly become part of the dialogue.
For instance, I remember shortly after my father passed away, one of our family’s first conversations was with the funeral home director. The topic of discussion was the price of coffins. Looking back, the conversation almost felt inappropriate.
I’m fairly confident the family members of the ultra-wealthy don’t have such discussions, but most households do. The need to make decisions about coffins and other funeral arrangements after the death of a loved one is real and unfortunately, spending money is part of the conversation.
When the local news media share a story about a tragedy, they often inform the audience of ways to make donations to help surviving family members. Another example of how money related issues and concerns can come to the forefront even as family members are grieving.
Financially successful people who have more money than most probably don’t worry much about keeping their financial house in order. More often than not, an ultra-wealthy person’s financial affairs are very complex.
For that reason alone, they should have a trust. The benefit of a trust is privacy. Locally, our beloved Aretha Franklin did not have one. As a result, much about her finances and other personal information was made public.
A trust could have kept that information private. For a public icon, when money for funeral expenses is not an issue, a trust is a must if privacy is desired.
I encourage everyone, wealthy or not, to have your financial house in order for the sake of your loved ones. If a tragedy occurred, at minimum they would need a roof over their head, food on the table and perhaps funds for education.
Having your house in order means legal affairs as well as financial affairs, and that includes life insurance. I’m aware that it’s human nature to put these things off because nothing is going to happen to you, only to other people.
But when you leave the house in the morning you can never know for sure. It’s very upsetting to lose an icon, and by all accounts Kobe was a thoughtful person and a good family man. Any family who has ever had to cope with the sudden loss of a loved one knows how difficult it is to carry on. So please, plan for the unexpected.