This has been a tough year for all of us, but it's been even harder for folks who have recently lost a parent. No matter how old you are, you could count on mom and dad's wisdom, experience, and love to give you some perspective on challenging times like this one. Social distancing and travel restrictions have also made it very difficult to move through the normal grieving process with friends and family.
After you've worked though the essential steps of settling your parent's estate, you might find it helpful to memorialize your loved one. Here are four ways to honor your parent and help your friends and family find closure, even if you can't all be together right now.
1. Create a scrapbook.
Put together a large group of favorite pictures or videos of your parent and share it with friends and family in a group social media album. You could encourage visitors to contribute some of their own favorite pictures, videos, or written memories as well to create a living memory book that grows on important anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Hopefully, as you were settling your parent's estate, you found passwords for their online accounts as well. Make sure you check those accounts for media that you want to save and share with others before you close them.
Once you have all this material in one place, back it up to your own computer or a cloud storage service. You might also want to consider printing some photos to display in your house or putting together a scrapbook for close friends and family. We spend so much time online these days that having something physical and tangible to remember your parent by can be that much more special. If you're not crafty, your local print shop can help you design the book and make copies.
2. Repurpose and share possessions.
I sincerely hope that your parent left behind a clear, detailed estate plan. Dealing with your grief is stressful enough without also trying to mediate family in-fighting over sentimental trinkets and significant assets.
Sadly, even with a solid estate plan in place, I've sat in way too many rooms teeming with hurt feelings and resentment. One possible solution is to think of ways to share your parent's belongings so that all of his or her heirs feel included in the memory. If you inherited the china set that came out every Christmas, you could give each of your siblings a dish or glass they can keep as a memento. Dad's collection of sweatshirts from his alma mater could be repurposed into memory quilts. Copy all of mom’s recipes into a cookbook you can print for everyone. Repot clippings from favorite houseplants so everyone can have a nice memory on their windowsill. Instead of arguing about who "deserves" the lake house, set up an online calendar where you and your extended family can book weekend getaways.
3. Continue favorite traditions.
Speaking of getaways, how you and your family are -- and aren't -- spending time together has probably taken on new meaning during the pandemic. I've advised many of my clients to take this opportunity to refocus their bucket lists on things that they really want to do, not just things that they can reasonably budget for.
Consider keeping any regular trips you took with your parents on that list. Tailgating at the homecoming game is probably out this year. But fishing at that lake house or hiking a beloved trail are trips you can safely enjoy.
Also, think about activities from your own childhood that bring your parents to mind. Did mom and dad bake homemade pizzas together every Friday night? Restart that tradition with your own children or grandchildren, using the family’s secret sauce recipe.
4. Give a gift that will keep giving.
If your parent's estate plan included charitable donations or plans for sustained giving, keep spreading that goodwill. You and your loved ones could start an annual charity golf tournament that donates funds to the same cause. You might not be able to volunteer in-person at your parent's favorite non-profit right now, but outreach organizations need remote assistance as well. And if your parents have left behind sizable assets, you could establish a charitable foundation that will continue to do good in your family's name for generations.
Many of the scenarios I've discussed today can have significant tax ramifications for heirs and executors. Working with a fiduciary advisor can help you memorialize your parents without getting your good intentions tied up in red tape. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if we can help you add another positive memory to your parent's legacy.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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