The percentage of people who have a Will and other legal planning documents is quite low but the percentage of folks that communicate their wishes to family or others involved is even lower. The culture of silence surrounding death planning, wishes, where assets are located is historical and strong.
This generational or cultural stigma of silence often masquerades as politeness, discretion or privacy. “Mom and Dad never talked to us about money. Talking about money was considered rude in our family.” When someone needs to do something with your money, such as care for you or pay your bills, it becomes less rude and more vital.
Secrets around death are not new. Family events and secrets are being taken to the grave. This results in wrongs that are left unfixed and important things that go unsaid. None of this is new, but it’s not good planning. “Mom’s business is Mom’s business!” Well, it is until it becomes the rest of the family’s business when she needs help, is not around, or is being taken advantage of by the town swindler. Then we wish we would have had a bit more transparency.
- “it’s rude to discuss finances”
- “it’s rude to discuss health”
- “we don’t talk about death”
Everyone is absolutely entitled to privacy. You want to keep things close to the vest? Whether it’s your finances or your health situation, it’s your entitlement to only disclose what you want to, and to whom you want. However, there is a trade-off for privacy and that’s disclosure, information, and truth. Privacy is all well and good until you need help, or until something needs to be done for you because you can’t do it yourself. Someone else may have an expectation or version of a story that differs from yours and your intentions. How’s that privacy working now? Frankly, it’s not. Privacy is a right, but it results in poor planning. Typically, if you have a plan, it’s good that the people who are part of the plan know what the plan is. You are accepting a risk when you choose privacy. You are risking your own physical and financial well being if you’re the only one with the information, or if only a select few have the information. You’re risking the continuity of your family because, guess what, the unselected few, regardless of their legal role in your life, may have a few things to say about it.
The consequence of poor communication (or no communication) is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations are at the root of most human conflict and disconnection. Humans are not robots. Humans are not rational animals as per Aristotle. Humans are emotional animals that sometimes think rationally. Regardless of situation and circumstances, all humans have expectations. We can’t help it. When it comes to inheritance, caretaking, and family, our culture has propagated some very damaging messages about what to expect. And expect we do. Whether those expectations are reasonable or completely offside – they will eventually be known and will impact relationships.
If no one knows what matters to you, you’re choosing bad planning. In Death and Incapacity Planning, privacy is a choice for defeat and disconnect. You don’t need to broadcast your life to your community, but you need to choose some people to share the details with. So please choose privacy wisely.