When I Die, The Dog Gets Everything
My dog, Jeter (as in Derek), is nearly 14 years old. He’s one of those small poodle mixes that don’t shed. My youngest daughter just turned 16, so you can imagine that it would be hard for her to imagine life without Jeter. I guess I have to admit, I don’t like to think about it either. He was the only other male when I was outnumbered in an all-women household (and he was neutered).
Jeter is really cute. When he first came home, he looked like a little fluffy cloud running around. He used to tug on the legs of our pajamas and later, we discovered, he liked to leave little “gifts” in the closet. It kind of put me off tootsie rolls…He is now an old man, but still a bundle of love and devotion - hard to have a bad day when he’s around to greet you like you are the most important person in the entire world. (I have yet to see someone dance and leap when I enter a room besides Jeter - ok, all you wise guys, I’m good with that - no need to start).
For many people, their dogs are true members of their family, bundles of unconditional love and joy with fur. When I was coming in to the office the other day, I chuckled when I saw on the back of someone’s car, “When I die, the dog gets everything”. As tempting as that may sometimes be, we need to think about the things that make us uncomfortable - such as what would happen to our loved ones and our pets if, heaven forbid, we were not around.
I have had clients tell me they have difficulty talking about life insurance because, by talking about it, it might tempt fate. My follow up question: “Do you have a will?” Their answer: “No, because I don’t want to think about it.” Unfortunately, there is only one way out of this life - every single living thing will, at some point, pass away.
No matter how well you plan your finances with a financial advisor, there is great exposure to risk if you don’t seek to mitigate it. Would your family be able to keep the home? Would your children be able to attend college? Would the everyday bills be paid? Would you be able to provide the legacy to your loved ones that you wanted - or would you instead leave a legacy of hardship? Life insurance is not about you: t’s about them. It’s about making sure that if you are not there, they can continue on by having the financial health to do so. In cases where there has been an expensive illness, assets may be eroded greatly and the survivor may not have the cushion that was once there.
Having a will, which you would obtain from an attorney, would enable your wishes to be carried out as to the disposition of assets - money, property, specific items. Without a will, the courts would make this decision - and it may not be popular. (Make sure to update wills to ensure current wishes are represented, such as if you have a change in marital status, etc.).
Please do not assume that your spouse or partner has taken care of this very important aspect of your financial life. If people leave jobs, they may have lost their life insurance coverage that they obtained through that job, for example. Know for sure.
September is life insurance awareness month. During this month, let’s each take the time to look at our life insurance coverage and determine if changes may be needed to amount, beneficiary, or type. If you need help having this conversation, that’s a great reason to make an appointment with a financial advisor. As cute as they are, don’t let your finances go to the dogs! (Sorry, Jeter).
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Seek advice from a qualified financial professional or legal advisor before taking any action in regard to your finances.
Todd A. Slingerland, CFP®
6 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203
(518) 867-4000 x105 firstname.lastname@example.org