As we prepare this edition of the Digest, we’re hoping that you had a great end to 2015 and celebrate the start to 2016 with your close family and friends. The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great time to reflect. As we reviewed the Digest posts of the year just ended, we were intrigued by what resonated with people the most and decided to share with you the top five posts from 2015 in each category in order of popularity.
I had a meeting last week with a client for some ongoing eldercare planning for her parents. In the middle of our discussion, she mused aloud that she could not recall when the conversation had changed. “As long as I can remember, my conversations with my parents were about me! My latest career challenge, a travel adventure, or what was going on with my kids. Now the discussion is focused on what is going on for them and how to get through the latest challenge of Aging!”
For the most part, I have found that adult children are poorly prepared to have productive and satisfying conversations with their parents about what they need as they age. There are the many reasons for that: denial, busy schedules, and distance. At the same time, many people struggle with the challenges of communication with a parent as a result of not knowing how to have what I call an “authentic conversation”.
Even in the healthiest family systems, communication can be difficult because of generational differences, lack of consensus about priorities and eldercare liabilities.
Jim Comer* describes his experience of trying to help his parents with long-term care decisions as “walking at the speed of a walker!” It is not a process that can be hurried. His experience supports one of my cardinal rules when I consult with professionals about selling to seniors: don’t make a long story short!
Unfortunately, many elderly are so consumed with anxiety about making a bad decision, that in order to avoid making a mistake, they avoid making any decision at all!
Advisors and families are faced with the delicate balance of providing as much information as possible so that the senior can make an informed decision and, at the same time, structuring the process in such a way that there are deadlines for taking action. My most successful strategy for getting to a decision point with elderly clients is to lay out the risks of NOT making a decision in a timely way.
The process is also complicated by the fact that the tools used to make the decisions can be foreign to most seniors and compete with many of their values. The transactions are done on line (so there is no person to interact with), the purchase must be paid for in advance of getting the service (how do I know I am getting what I paid for?), and credit cards are the standard mechanism for making the purchase (credit debt is a sin!).
The Process of Communication
There are several critical steps that need to be addressed to have any chance of gaining consensus about the need for a conversation and getting seniors to buy into the process. Even before the conversation takes shape, three critical questions need to be asked.
1. What are the concerns?
Can all of the parties agree on what the primary concerns are? Much like a risk assessment that you do with your clients around estate planning, can we get inside the heads of the stakeholders to determine what they are concerned about? Two of the top concerns of adult children in relation to an elderly parent are safety and competency. Unfortunately, for their parents, the hot points are typically independence and privacy. So the staring point is reconciling these disparate concerns into one conversation?
2. What is the purpose or goal of discussing these concerns?
While almost all families would say they are after “what is in mom’s best interest”, personal agendas can be troublesome. The competition among three sisters has derailed the planning for one of my senior clients. In another family, a son’s unwillingness to share any information with his siblings about the parents’ finances has created hard feelings. Individually, each of these people has promised me cooperation, but when the actual conversation begins and emotions take over, it is almost impossible for them to rise above their own issues. Time and again adult children need to be reminded that the effort is about what’s best for mom.
3. What is getting in the way of having the discussion?
A couple in their 80’s was in my office recently complaining that their children did not want to talk about health care issues and concerns. Another client in her 80’s resented that her daughter had attempted to talk about a plan. “I felt that my daughter was measuring me for the black dress and I told her so!” In a follow-up conversation with the daughter, I found her devastated at her mother’s response.
Barriers to authentic conversations often have nothing to do with the presenting problem or specific needs of the elder family member. Typically, families struggle with the process either because there is little history of open communication among people or there is a history of conflict that presents so much emotional baggage that a civilized discussion is virtually impossible.
Families with a history of conflict really struggle with productive conversations. These conflicts typically revolve around guilt and/or money. Either the guilty child is struggling to make up for past behaviors that put him in a bad light with relatives or conflicts around money rooted in concerns about fairness derail the process.
While authentic communication can be a healthy thing, facilitating the conversation can carry some liabilities. Much like the daughter who was chastised by her mother for “just trying to help”, the potential to be misunderstood is great. I have seen a number of cases where the child who is accused of “taking over” when he steps in to help and now is alienated from his parents.
Getting involved in elder care giving can be very expensive. The cost of housing, health care, and other senior services can be overwhelming for family members especially if the parents are unwilling or unable to help with the cost of things. Adult children are often hesitant to suggest things for fear of creating a financial liability that they cannot meet.
Care giving at a distance can be the most challenging situation for an adult child who is trying to help an aging parent. The possibility of having the good conversation at a distance is limited because authentic communication requires both face to face visual and verbal exchanges to get through some of the tough emotional topics related to eldercare.
Approximately one-fifth of the families I work with have underlying emotional issues that have resulted in such conflict that they easily lose sight of the goal of “doing what’s best for mom”. For some families, the costs of care giving for a son or daughter have not been appropriately appreciated. For others, past “sins” have placed their motives under suspicion. And while the vast majority of family members have good intentions for their parents, competition over who decides or who is in charge get in the way.
The Distribution of “Rights”
When families contract with me to help with these conversations, one of the first questions they ask is: should mom be included in the conversation”? My response is to go back to the initial questions to get a sense of where they are in the process. I want to have them tell me what they see as the concerns, goals and barriers around the conversations.
If the goal is to manage conflict or get consensus among adult children about how to proceed, I suggest that a meeting without mom might be useful because the initial meeting is clearly going to be about the interests of the children and not about what is best for mom. Once the children are able to agree on one or two issues, it is probably time to get the parent(s) involved.
Authentic conversations cannot take place unless the “rights” of all involved are addressed. Those include: getting everybody around the table to suspend the need to be “right”. There needs to be agreement that the purpose of the meeting is to come up with some possible options that might be “right” for mom.
I also believe that in cases, when a family member refuses to contribute to the discussion, he also relinquishes his “right” to be actively involved in the ongoing process of putting the plan in place.
Finally in order for any conversation to be truly “authentic”, It must involve the “person of interest”. Mom has a right, if she is interested, willing and capable, to be actively involved in decisions about how things will proceed, who will help with the process and what her role will be along the way.
For more information about managing the challenges of eldercare, contact:
As we prepare this edition of the Digest, we’re hoping that you had a great end to 2014 and celebrated the start to 2015 with your close family and friends.The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great time to reflect. As we reviewed the Digest posts of the year just ended, we were intrigued by what resonated with people the most and decided to share with you the top five posts from 2014 in each category in order of popularity.
Top Five “Economy and Investing” Posts:
1) January 29, 2014 Video: The Wisdom of Crowds We conducted an experiment testing the “wisdom of crowds”, the proposition that, in many situations, the collective wisdom of a group will surpass that of even its smartest individual members.
2) October 15, 2014 Ignore the Headlines Dave shares a few thoughts on the current state of the world as the ebb and flow of daily crises seem to have surged past some invisible threshold that leaves us feeling off balance and scrambling for a firm place to stand.
3) January 16, 2014 A Different Dimension Nobelist Gene Fama and Dimensional Fund Advisors have drawn favorable attention lately with both a cover feature in Barron’s and an appreciation in Morningstar.
5)April 9, 2014 Flash Boys and Flashy Headlines Dave’s take on Michael Lewis’s new book, “Flash Boys”, which focuses on high-frequency trading (HFT), the theory that smart technologists have figured out ways to legally “front run” other investors, driving up their cost of buying shares.
5) December 4, 2014 Decision Architecture: Building Better Choices Developing good policies can be thought of as a form of “decision architecture” in which we structure the policies in such a way as to leverage our natural human proclivities, like sticking with our default options.
4) January 16, 2014 Yeske Buie Open House in Vienna The Yeske Buie Open House in Vienna featured a professional tarot card reader, catering from Purple Onion Catering Co, and wines from three of Elissa and Dave’s favorite wineries in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County.
5) April 10, 2014 Give Big While giving back to the community has always been a Yeske Buie value, this year we have implemented a campaign for the Yeske Buie Team to volunteer on a quarterly basis called Give Big to make a difference in our local communities.
Top Five “Fun Stuff” Posts:
1) January 29, 2014 Video: The Wisdom of Crowds We conducted an experiment testing the “wisdom of crowds”, the proposition that, in many situations, the collective wisdom of a group will surpass that of even its smartest individual members.
2) July 31, 2014 The Live Big Chronicles – Live Big, Live Free We were recently inspired by that idea to create The Live Big Chronicles, a new list that chronicles some of the things you can do to Live Big in the DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) and San Francisco areas without spending any money at all.
4) September 11, 2014 Elissa and Dave’s Live Big Euro Trip This year, Elissa and Dave took a two week trip to London and Barcelona. Visits to London are special for Elissa and Dave as Elissa’s mother was British and she still has many relatives in the area.
5) August 14, 2014 Sheppard Kominars: Portal Poems When we get the opportunity and permission, we like to highlight the projects our clients have worked on. Most recently we’ve explored Sheppard Kominars’ personal journey throughout the past couple decades of his life through a book called Portal Poems: Perspectives on Aging
Top Five “YeBu in the Media” Posts:
1) February 28, 2014 Dave in the Chicago Tribune Dave was recently quoted in the Chicago Tribune, where writer Janet Kidd Stewart tells readers how ‘Getting personal with your financial expert can pay off.’
2) January 29, 2014 Dave Quoted in CNBC When it comes to assessing where to put money to work in 2014, Andrew Osterland of CNBC reports that advisors are largely in agreement: tilt towards stocks.
3) October 24, 2014 Elissa Buie Appears in Washingtonian Magazine Elissa Buie appears on Washingtonian Magazine’s list of top money advisors for the fifth time. Elissa has appears on all four of Washingtonian’s previous lists of top financial planners.
1) December 19, 2012 Perhaps the most beautiful flash mob ever . . . Our good friend Ed Jacobson, PhD, author of Appreciative Moments, sent us a video we thought you’d appreciate. Elissa called it “perhaps the most beautiful flash mob ever.
3) March 23, 2013 Stand By Me A global rendition of the classic Ben E. King song Stand By Me from the documentary “Playing for Change: Peace Through Music.”
4) June 6, 2013 Managing Risk when Rebalancing into Bonds Strong stock market gains have triggered rebalancing into bonds at a time when many consider the bond market expensive. Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
5) March 6, 2009 What does it mean to Live Big® in these trying times? What does Live Big mean? Some may interpret it as meaning “spend big”, “live large” or a recommendation to some other form of overindulgence. But Live Big is not about the size of your wallet, it’s about the size of your life. In these crazy economic times, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the areas in our life where we can Live Big without spending (much, if any) money. But if we can find the place of gratitude for what we have, we can find joy in the most mundane of places, and, hopefully, at least get our minds off of how scary the world can feel at times.
6) October 5, 2012 Portfolio Strategy Update: Toward a Truly Global Portfolio You’ve often heard us say that it makes sense to be “geographically-neutral,” that there is no systematic return associated with geographic allocation. One exception in recent years has been an extreme under-weighting of so-called Emerging Markets, which for some time represented less than a tenth of their true market weight in our portfolios. We moved to shift that balance in January (The Case for Emerging Markets) and have now made a further shift toward emerging markets that has completed this transition to a “geographically-neutral” allocation.
8) January 29, 2014 Video: The Wisdom of Crowds We conducted an experiment testing the “wisdom of crowds”, the proposition that, in many situations, the collective wisdom of a group will surpass that of even its smartest individual members.
9) October 15, 2014 Ignore the Headlines Dave shares a few thoughts on the current state of the world as the ebb and flow of daily crises seem to have surged past some invisible threshold that leaves us feeling off balance and scrambling for a firm place to stand.
10) October 24, 2013 Elissa Awarded Financial Planning Profession’s Highest Honor In October 2013, Elissa was awarded the prestigious P. Kemp Fain, Jr. Award, the Financial Planning profession’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. Elissa’s significant role in merging the Institute of Certified Financial Planners (ICFP) and the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP) to form the Financial Planning Association, her contributions as a thought leader to the advancement of the profession through her writing, presenting, and teaching, and her contributions to society and the profession through her work at the Foundation for Financial Planning were highlighted as she received the award.
The November issue of Financial Planning Magazine sports the smiling face of our very own Yusuf Abugideiri under the heading, How to Hire the Next Generation. Elissa is quoted extensively in the accompanying article, beginning with a discussion of how Yeske Buie has helped support the FPA student chapter at Virginia Tech.
Wealth management executive Elissa Buie, for instance, has co-sponsored FPA chapters at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., as well as William Paterson. “I pay for dues and pizza, and I’ve also gone and spoken at the FPA chapter at Virginia Tech,” says Buie, co-founder and CEO of Yeske Buie, which has offices in San Francisco and in Vienna, Va. “When students get input from people who are out in the world doing [the work], it’s really valuable.”
Elissa also discusses Yeske Buie’s team approach to serving clients and how this creates opportunities for young planners, interns, and residents to get client-facing experience from day one.
“We always have a senior planner in a meeting, plus a second chair for someone who is more junior. The intern shadows that [junior] person,” says Buie, whose firm offers both internships and residencies. “They learn what it means to prepare for a meeting, take notes, and do the follow-up.”
Buie also assigns interns projects. “Maybe we have client tax returns, but we haven’t been tracking losses carried forward. We might have [interns] create the database, go through the returns and enter the data. Is it generally done very well? Yes,” she continues. “Perfectly? No — but it’s easier for an assistant financial planner to do cleanup than to do it all from scratch.”
Elissa also has the opportunity to highlight the key drivers behind Yeske Buie’s “In Residence” program.
Buie does hire some former interns, but her firm also uses the residencies to attract young talent while managing their expectations. Residents join the firm for two or three years, and are paid the same as a permanent hire at the same level — but everyone knows that their time at the firm is finite.
“You can’t keep growing and hiring and have everyone on a partnership track,” she says. “Our residents fill the paraplanner positions. They … get experience and take the CFP exam while they’re with us. When they leave, they’ll be ready to get scooped up by another firm or start their own business.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation has created an animation series known as the “YouToons” to make learning about the healthcare law a much more easy-to-follow and enjoyable process. The following video is well worth the seven minutes to get the basics on Obamacare. We recently wrote a post on the new marketplaces, which is a facet of the Affordable Care Act, but the video will touch on a more comprehensive, albeit brief, summary of all of the different pieces of the Act. And now for the YouToons…
Advancements in technology have revolutionized how we live and communicate, with few technologies dominating more of our daily life than email. The convenience and ubiquity of email, however, has a dark side: as more of our personal and financial information finds its way to our email inbox, it becomes an irresistible target to hackers and identity thieves. It is only with prudence and the diligent application of good email “hygiene” that we can keep the hackers at bay. To that end, we here offer tips for practicing safe email hygiene, as well as a plan of action for dealing with a compromised email account.
Practice Safe Email Hygiene
Be sure the passwords attached to your accounts follow these best practices: -Employ a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters -Do not use actual words -Avoid patterns that would be easy to identify such as birthdays or names of family members
Set up two-step account verification – this means no computer or device can access your email without first being authorized by entering a code sent to your cell phone.
If something seems strange or out of the ordinary, trust your instinct and take a closer look at the email you received.
Double check the sender’s email address as hackers will use familiar names in the address line and body of the email but have a strange email address listed as the sender. For example, if an email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, they may modify it to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or some other similar variation hoping you won’t notice the minor change.
ALWAYS hover over a link before clicking and read the website address. If it doesn’t make sense (isn’t clearly about what it is meant to be about), don’t click on it and contact the sender to see if they are legitimate. Even something as seemingly innocent as clicking on a link can unleash evil stuff onto your computer and onto your network.
Do not save important information (Social Security Number, passwords, date of birth, etc.) via email. Emails don’t get intercepted, accounts get hacked. They will find it in your inbox. If you must send information via email, make sure to delete the message from your sent folder and trash folder, or from your inbox and trash folder if you are the recipient. Ideally, it would be best to either password protect a document that has this information or transmit the information verbally so there is no written record to potentially be hijacked.
Many of us check our email on devices other than our computer, such as our cell phones, iPads, tablets, etc. Protect these devices by setting up a passcode and selecting the option to have the devices’s memory erased if too many attempts are made with the wrong code. If you’re using Apple products, be sure to activate “find my iPhone,” which will allow you to remotely erase the memory of lost iPhones and iPads.
Have a list of your contacts saved to another email account or other storage device that you can access easily. If you are ever locked out of your email account by a hacker, this list can be a good back up for the information you will need so you can notify your network about the breach immediately.
What To Do If Your Email Account Has Been Compromised
Change your password IMMEDIATELY.
Search your sent folder to see who the hacker may have contacted. In some instances the hacker may have deleted the emails they sent, so search your trash folder as well.
Send an email to your contacts telling them that they should not act on any requests for money or private information and that you either have regained control of your email or will be switching to a different email soon.
If you decide to change your email or are locked out of it, update any accounts that had your old email address listed as a login ID or for electronic correspondence.
If you are concerned the hacker may have gained access to your financial details, sign up for a credit monitoring service with TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, and/or IdentityForce.
Elissa and Dave were featured in InvestmentNews‘ 15th anniversary edition special feature of the top 15 transformational advisers. The feature, written by Andrew Osterland, highlights Elissa and Dave’s relationship and their extensive contributions to the financial planning profession, focusing especially on their work in the areas of “policy-based financial planning” and the introduction to greater scientific rigor to the profession’s body of knowledge.
Osterland notes Elissa and Dave’s longtime commitment to improving practice through research and teaching.
The two financial advisers, whose firm has offices in Vienna, Va., and San Francisco, are well-known in the financial planning profession for their work at the industry’s major trade group — the Financial Planning Association — as well as their roles as educators at Golden Gate University and their contributions to the academic literature of the financial advice field.
Also noted in the article was the work Elissa and Dave have done to develop the concept of “Policy-Based Financial Planning,” which involves the development of compact decision rules that can guide clients who must make decisions in the face of a rapidly changing environment.
Mr. Yeske’s and Ms. Buie’s most important contribution to the academic literature was a paper published in the Journal of Financial Planning that they co-authored in 2006 on policy-based planning. In it, they argued that just as advisers use investment policies in managing assets, they also should draft policies to guide their planning with clients.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal profiled three adviser couples who work together. Elissa and Dave were one of those couples. Here is what Caitlin Nish had to say in her article, “Adviser Couples Who Live, Work Together”.
Dave Yeske and Elissa Buie
Yeske Buie Inc., Vienna, Va. and San Francisco, $440 million in assets under management
First comes a board commitment, then comes marriage:
Mr. Yeske and Ms. Buie met while on the board of a financial planning group in 1996. At the time, they each had their own practice–on opposite coasts, he in California and she in Virginia. They also were married to others. Six years later, when both were single again and at a conference in Alaska, they decided not to let 2,419 miles stand between them, Ms. Buie says.
They married in 2006 and finished merging their firms in 2008.
Why they combined practices:
“At first we assumed we wouldn’t merge,” Mr. Yeske says. “We thought we might kill each other.” But their businesses were complementary: Ms. Buie had the staff and systems to serve clients in a particularly consistent and effective way. Mr. Yeske had hardly any staff but strong technology.
They also had different interests: Ms. Buie wanted to manage the business. Mr. Yeske wanted to work with clients and bring in new ones.
How he got top billing:
Ms. Buie volunteered for the second spot in the firm’s name. “She said, ‘It matters more to you. And, oh, by the way, I’m going to be the CEO,'” Mr. Yeske recalls.
The toughest part of working together:
“We eat, sleep and breathe the business,” Ms. Buie says, adding that it occasionally frustrates their daughters. “The challenge is making sure we focus on things other than the business.” These include sports, opera and travel.
Robert Powell, who writes for The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website, offers six tips for college grads on how to prepare for not just a normal life but a rich one after graduation. Bob opens with some humbling and humorous advice.
Jason Gay, sportswriter extraordinaire for The Wall Street Journal, this week offered up 29 Rules for College Grads. And his first rule was this: “Relax. Nobody expects anything from you for the first 80 to 90 years.”
Prepare for multiple careers New grads today won’t follow the same blueprint as the generations before them, not least because they’ll live longer. Identifying multiple career options that interest you will frame your career path in a much more interesting and realistic way. Setting up the right expectations now will increase your chances of career satisfaction and staying power.
New college grads might also have [to] work a wee bit harder than previous generations at keeping themselves gainfully employed, especially in light of the increasingly faster pace of changes in technology and the global economy. There will be a premium placed on keeping skills and knowledge current.
“Invest in your career,” said Steve Vernon, a consulting research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, Financial Security Division. “If you don’t have strong earnings, you won’t be able to save much money.”
Stay healthy and health-wise One of the toughest challenges facing new grads is maintaining good health habits amidst the changes they will be making when shifting from college to the working world.
“Take pride in taking care of your health—eating right, getting proper exercise, and becoming an informed medical consumer,” said Vernon.
“College graduates need to know the latest information on that topic, in order to plan their lives around realistic expectations of their healthy and total longevity—and also in order to put themselves in a position to hasten the medical defeat of aging and thereby increase their chances of benefiting from it,” said Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, author of “Ending Aging” and chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation.
Invest for the really long term
With life expectancies getting longer, new grads will likely need to plan for a longer time frame as an income-earner and as a retiree. It would then be prudent to employ an investment strategy that takes that into account.
Be a smart spender
“Create smart spending habits,” said Vernon. “If you learn how to live within your means now, you’ll be able to save and grow a nest egg that buys your freedom in your later years.”
Maintain a strong social network
“Maintain a strong social network—real people, not to be confused with virtual,” said Coughlin. “They will keep you connected, healthy and well for a lifetime, which for your generation is a long time.”
Live a rich life
Another network that must be maintained is that of family. “Be involved in the lives of your parents and grandparents as they transition into their elder years,” said Vernon. “It will make your life richer emotionally now, and you’ll learn invaluable lessons for when you reach those years.”
Kelly Greene of The Wall Street Journal wrote an entertaining piece on the money lessons to be found in the popular show, “Downton Abbey”. The show has drawn a lot of interest in the U.S. with 8.2 million viewers tuning in for the Feb. 17 Season Three finale. Greene explains the program’s popularity by suggesting that it “resonates with Americans today in part because the family dynamics it portrays are timeless”.
Downton Abbey centers on a British aristocrat, Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, who has three daughters but no sons to whom he can leave his estate, as required under British property rules at the time. The earl’s male cousin and the cousin’s son both die on the Titanic. That leaves as the next possible heir a distant relative who—gasp!—works for a living, albeit as a lawyer.
In between all the plotting and back-stabbing, the characters blunder into a broad array of financial- and estate-planning disasters, from bad investments and messy trusts to poor business-succession plans and power struggles following health crises.
Many of us here are avid fans of the show and enjoyed Greene’s creative approach to using this British soap opera to highlight what to do and what not to do when crafting and managing a financial plan. WARNING: the rest of this article contains spoilers if you haven’t finished Season Three!
The most obvious take-away from “Downton Abbey” is to diversify investments, a lesson the earl learns after squandering much of his American wife’s fortune on an investment in a Canadian railway filing for bankruptcy. Left with almost nothing, the family quietly makes plans to sell the ancestral home, lay off staff and move to a smaller property—until they are saved at the last minute by yet another inheritance.
“If there is anyone out there who has not made proper provision for their family, and ‘Downton’ is a nudge for them to do so, then hurrah,” says Julian Fellowes, the series’ creator and executive producer.
Kelly goes on to offer five more key lessons including:
Sell the house. In the program, the ancestral home is central to the Crawley family’s lives and status—their residence, social life and business rolled into one.
But in modern times, inheriting an old house often is more trouble than it’s worth.
Many parents overestimate a property’s emotional importance to their heirs. And the heirs sometimes feel a sense of duty to keep the house, even if it isn’t worth the expense.
Spell out control and ownership when passing the baton. The Earl of Grantham presides over Downton Abbey with his family, but the blown investment has left them broke. Matthew Crawley, the earl’s third cousin once removed and the closest remaining male heir, winds up falling in love with and marrying the earl’s oldest daughter, Mary.
After Matthew inherits a pile of money from his former fiancée’s family and invests it in Downton Abbey, the earl invites Matthew to join the family business. But when Matthew starts digging into the books, he finds big financial problems, and the estate’s longtime overseer resigns suddenly.
There are ways to ease such problems when bringing the next generation into the family business. The first step: Make sure everyone involved is clear on who has voting rights, veto rights and the power to fire, along with the size of each person’s equity stake in the business, Mr. Forster advises.
Make a will before giving birth. Matthew Crawley’s death points to other financial-planning issues affecting families.
Matthew should have had a business agreement in place spelling out what would happen to his wife and any children if he died, along with an updated will, says Mary Schmidt, an estate-planning attorney in Boston. Instead, he essentially made a gift to the earl—not the wisest move for a character who also is a lawyer by training, she says.
Most expectant couples should have a series of documents in place, Ms. Schmidt says. Among them: wills, trusts for their spouses and children, and a power of attorney allowing their spouse to handle their business affairs if they become incapacitated, she says.
Set up a medical directive. A few episodes before Matthew Crawley’s death, Sybil, the beloved youngest daughter, dies from childbirth complications. As she falls ill, the family struggles to guess what her wishes would be: to be moved to the hospital to seek treatment that might save her but risk the child? To baptize the baby girl as a Catholic, like her father, or an Anglican, like her mother?
Ms. Finn, of Marcum, recommends spelling out such wishes through a will and an “advance medical directive”—a set of written instructions that specify what actions should be taken if you no longer are able to make medical decisions, along with a health-care proxy appointing someone to make those decisions on your behalf. Doing so “saves the family having to wonder, and it saves a lot of tension,” she says.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson