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Planning Beyond Yourself

No one wants to do this kind of planning, but it is absolutely essential! If you are an adult, you need to plan BEYOND your own life. If you’re a parent, then your kids need that. I’m talking about wills, instructions, and blessings. Too many of us plan as if we will never die. “I still have time,” or “I’ll get that done someday,” we say. But time after time I see young families devastated because the simplest preparations were not made. I see adult children trying to sort through myriad details at the exact time when they are so emotionally compromised with grief that it feels impossible.

On Sunday I was sharing an illustration about how we can’t be objective about ourselves, but a statement sparked some questions. I said it was irresponsible to fail to plan for your family. I faced that several years ago when I learned one fact: in the event of the untimely death of both parents, the children become wards of the state and a courtroom judge decides how your children will grow up without those parents. A friend asked me this question: “Do you want to let a stranger make that decision about your kids or do YOU want to make that decision?” I was stunned by that question. But it was the catalyst for making those decisions.

So today, I’ll tell you what that meant for me–and frankly, what I think everyone should do.


  1. Make a legal will and secure the copies. I wrote it down with the help of an attorney. I made sure that several people knew where it was and who was responsible.
  2. Name legal guardians. We visited with a couple that we trusted to love our kids. Our kids loved them and we knew they would give them the care they needed.
  3. Name an executor that is NOT an heir or recipient. This was huge. I didn’t want my family to be torn by self-interest. I chose an extremely trustworthy, responsible friend who I knew would follow my instructions.
  4. Keep accurate, current records that can be accessed by the executor. I can’t enumerate how many times I have been involved with grieving families over the last 3 decades and discovered that they couldn’t find or access the information they needed so that they could honor the wishes of the person they were grieving. So I keep those records meticulously and go over them regularly with my family so they will know. I update every quarter and change passwords every time I do.
  5. Write letters to your survivors. Every son and daughter need to know how precious they are to a parent. Every spouse needs to be reassured with confidence and affectionate words. I have written letters to my wife, kids, sister, friends, grandchildren, and even the church. Every quarter on a Saturday morning, I review those letters. I want the people who have loved me to know how loved they are. Too many times I have seen a son or daughter feel robbed because they didn’t hear the blessing from a parent that has died. I want to leave no doubt. So every quarter I update those letters so the latest expression of my heart is what I will leave with them.
  6. Plan for appropriate help. I have concrete instructions for how to move forward in my absence. I don’t want my wife to have to start figuring that out when she’s personally exhausted with grief. I want her to have a head start that helps.

These are not complicated steps. They aren’t enjoyable steps. In fact, I’m a bit of a mess on those Saturday mornings when I finish printing those updated letters. But as a dad and husband, I would rather face that reality FOR THEM instead of inflicting more pain on them. I spend about 4 hours per year on this project. In less time than a round of golf, a fishing trip, a night out on the town, or a long collegiate football game on TV, we can plan beyond ourselves and do an incredible service for the people we love the most.

I’m practicing what I’m preaching. So if you haven’t taken these steps yet, get after it!

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