Caring for generations: the true reward of settling an estate
Caring for a loved one as they approach the end of life can be difficult. Tending to physical needs, the emotional aspects of caregiving, and practical tasks such as helping to ensure last wishes are fulfilled all take energy and patience.
During this difficult time, making sure finances are in order, including the task of making final arrangements for one's estate, can easily be forgotten. If you own a home, have life insurance, a pension or retirement investments such as an IRA, 401(k) or other assets, advance planning will help ensure that your family and intended heirs receive the greatest benefit as you intended. That's why it is important to name an executor of your estate.
Robert Lawlor, Lowell General Hospital Corporator and Planned Giving Committee member, recently shared his own personal experience as an executor.
For more than twenty years, I have been personally and professionally familiar with the details of financial and estate planning. However, when my dad, a lifelong physician in the community, asked my brother and me to handle his affairs when his ‘time came,' I was struck by what all my classes and training could never truly teach me.
More than just handling the financial responsibilities as an executor, I learned to experience life through my dad's eyes. By reading the documents directing who he wanted to remember, and specifically what non-profits he valued and why, it gave me insights to my father's values, and feelings that my 40-plus years hadn't otherwise taught me.
This process allowed me to sort through, at my own pace, all of his pictures and letters from his childhood, his time in the Pacific during World War II, his schooling, sports, family and professional life, as well as his friends. I found myself remembering Dad's voice telling the stories, reading letters my mom wrote to him while they were dating, finding cards and pictures from my brothers and sisters that he felt were important to save. I was reminded that caring for a loved one while he or she is alive is as important as looking after last wishes. As much as my dad had relied on my visits to the nursing home and the daily stories of me and my family, with his passing, he relied on me to let everyone know how to carry out his intentions.
As executor, you are given a fiduciary responsibility to maintain order, be fair to the process, and follow the laws that govern estate settlement. In my special role as executor of my father's estate, it gave me precious time to truly understand the meaning and purpose of my dad's life.
As you spend time with an aging parent or begin your own end-of-life planning, consider the things that have been part of your life in a special way. In doing so, you can determine the personal legacy that will continue into the future.
To make a gift to Lowell General Hospital or for more information about forms of charitable giving, contact the Philanthropy Department at 978-937-6430.