My uncle passed away last month. It's a bummer of a story - he was a good guy whom everybody liked, and it was totally unexpected. (The only saving grace is that he went peacefully in his sleep.) But it gets worse from here.
You see, my uncle left a complicated estate behind, and without going into too many details online here, I'm the person responsible for settling his affairs. I've spent too many daytime hours to count in the process, and too many sleepless nights thinking about what should be done, and how.
Losing a loved one is always hard, and nothing after the fact can bring him back. But by not having his affairs in order, he turned a crappy, depressing event into a year-long pain in the ass second job. I'll always miss him, but I find myself thinking that this process could have (and should have) already been completed.
What do you know?
Every one of us knows things that our family members would benefit from knowing if we "get hit by a bus" tomorrow.
- Where are all the accounts kept?
- Access rights and/or passwords
- Life insurance agent's contact information.
- How to log in and see-share-save the family photos.
- Information for the kids' schools and sports teams.
- Etc. Etc.
It's great that you're so involved with that particular part of your family's life, but a few minutes' work writing things down could save your spouse/parents/heirs countless hours of trying to figure things out later.
Take it to the Next Level
In today's day and age, with the amount of information available, you're crazy if you don't have a will - there's almost no excuse at this point. And if you have any reasonable amount of assets at all, you should give careful consideration to setting up a trust as well.
Who else can you help?
Making it easy doesn't have to stop with family - why not make it easy for your clients?
- If you have an eye for decorating, help your sellers stage their house. A couple hours' effort will save them time and money, and the house will show better in the end.
- What to Expect information - you've gone through dozens, or hundreds, of transactions, so the process may seem obvious to you. But your clients probably haven't, and they aren't sure what to expect. Give them something they can refer back to when they have questions about the process of buying or selling.
- Forms and Terms - another thing you can give your clients is a dictionary-type list of the various forms and terms they're likely to encounter throughout the process. What does SPDS mean, or BINSR? How about Escrow vs Title vs Title Officer?
- Market Comps - don't just send your clients a list of comps. Instead, help them analyze what the comps are showing.
- Sellers - have your sellers start a list of "things the buyer would want to know". They can add to the list whenever something pops into their head. How to run the pool motor; which neighbors are helpful with certain things; which light switch controls an outlet that might not be obvious; who they've used for a particular service in the past (if they're happy with the service), etc. These are things which might take the sellers a few minutes, but which might save the buyers several hours.
- What else am I missing?
You know a lot of things, and there are people who depend on you for your expertise. Spending a few minutes, or even a few hours, giving purposeful thought into making things easier for them could save them an enormous amount of time and energy - if someday you're not able to help them personally.
- Chris Butterworth