The New Years Tradition that has Changed My Life

At Soterian, our blog posts and newsletters are focused on our mission of helping business owners Find their Why, Find their How and Find their When through strategic planning, life mastery and tax redirection. As today is the first working day of the Year and our team is heading into annual planning, I thought it would be beneficial to share one of the personal end of the year/beginning of the year habits I have forced myself to do as part of my continuous and never ending improvement pursuit of life mastery. One particular activity that I just completed is worth sharing, namely because of how it re-centered me to my Why and could not have more perfectly set the stage for annual planning for my business and more importantly, my personal annual planning to make sure that my priorities are centered where they need to be.

The exercise is simple – every year on New Year’s day I pull my estate planning documents out of the safe, re-read them and make sure they properly reflect what I would want to happen in my earthly wake if I were to meet my maker this year. I then log into the Soterian ICE/Estate Vault and make sure that I have added in any direct bequeathals of any significant or sentimental items I may have acquired over the year and then print out an updated In Case of Emergency (ICE) Plan that has comprehensive instructions for my trustees. I add this to my estate planning binder and then I get out a legal pad and I write a letter to each of my kids and my wife that they will get from my trustee at the reading of my will. I use simple paper and a simple envelope, but the letter is anything but simple. Putting myself in their position, I think about the letter I would want to get from my Dad when he passes, and the letter that I wish I would have gotten when I buried my Mom way too early in life.

In these letters, I tell my kids how much they mean to me, I recount some of the really special times we have had over the past year, I commemorate their significant accomplishments, but most importantly, I tell my kids the character traits I have seen them develop that I admire and how proud I am of the person they are becoming. I write to my kids first and then go and get a box of Kleenex and make sure I am in a place where I can put it all out there as I write the letter to my wife. I write to her about all the things we have done together over the past year, how much she means to me, how powerful it has been to have her a part of my life and how content she has made me by just loving me. And as you can imagine, it absolutely wrecks me as I put down in words the power of “Us”, thinking about her reading that letter with me gone.

Even now I am still a mess thinking about not being a part of their lives. Every year I wrestle with (as I am sure most of you will) whether it is a good idea to put myself through this and whether it will even be good for them to get these letters. Then I think back on what I experienced when my Mom died too soon, and I know that they will appreciate these letters, whether they get them in 2019 or (hopefully) they get a bunch of them much further down the road. What I have also come to realize is that the most important part of this process is the mindset that I assume when I write the letters. As I am overcome with gratitude for having had the unbelievable opportunity to experience the life that I have had with them, I realize that coming to grips with my own mortality re-centers my focus on priorities and unequivocally solidifies my “Why”. It is also very interesting how thinking about myself dying gets me to actually act upon me dying to self, which is what I want most as I head into this New Year.

A couple of other things to think about as you review your estate plan:

1. Do you have a written will (and trust if you have kids under 18)?

2. Does your executor know where the original executed copies of your will and trust are located?

3. Does someone have the ability to get into your safe or if in a safety deposit box, are they properly authorized and know where to find the key?

4. Do you have any special things you would like to happen after you are gone (gifts to people, specific funeral requests, etc.)? If so, are they written down in your will?

As part of our Soterian process, we walk you through our ICE and Estate questionnaire as an integral part of Finding your Why and then we make sure it gets done correctly as part of our Purposeful Execution on your How. If you would like the link to our ICE and Estate questionnaire, or would like to begin the Soterian process, or just talk further about this blog or what we do, email us, or click here to schedule a call.

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At Soterian, our goal is to help business owners like you think bigger. Bigger than today, bigger than your business, bigger than yourself.

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