I really do feel fortunate in my life. Though there have been bumps and bruises, and even heartache, I generally feel like I have been blessed. I have been blessed with three sons and a wife who love me, in spite of my flaws, my sometimes lack of patience, and my failure to always be a good role model.
I have also been fortunate in that my children have hung around and have remained good friends with each other.
But life starts to happen. In the last few months, one of my sons has transitioned out of Hays as a traveling nurse, and my oldest son, who works with me, is transitioning as well.
I work with a lot of families that are small business owners or farmers. One of the difficulties for all of them is when a child, for whatever reason, needs to move on, perhaps out of the business, or at least to a new location. Perhaps it is a new job, or marriage, or one of many other factors. But that child, for his or her sake, needs to move on.
Equally as difficult is when a family wants to pass on a business to a child or children. How does that look and how does that work?
I see a lot of lack of planning. Many times it is just not addressed.
I also see guilt trips laid on children. “You should stay and take care of mom and dad.”
One of the biggest issues that we deal with in my office is children working themselves to the point of exhaustion trying to take care of a parent who is chronically ill. They have not been able to transition to bringing in help. They are driven by obligation versus common sense.
The following are not uncommon statements that I hear in my office:
“I am going to leave everything to the kids. I am going to let them figure it out.”
“My kids will never let me go to a nursing home.”
“I am going to leave everything to my son Johnny, and he will take care of the other kids.”
“My kids get along really well, and they will figure it all out.”
“I promised my spouse that I would never put him in a nursing home, and I intend to keep that promise.”
One of the things that we do in our office is have difficult conversations with our clients. We want to talk about the “What Ifs:” What if your son does not want to stay here? What if your wife cannot keep you at home? What if you need long-term care, how are we going to pay for that? It is all part of transition planning.
I think the most difficult part of transition planning is not deciding what is best for yourself, but trying to decide what is best for others as well. As my oldest son is transitioning to a new stage of life, which involves him leaving my office, it is very inconvenient for me. Not only am I losing a trusted employee, I am also losing someone who is always frank with me; and always gives me good advice. But I know the transition that he is making is the transition he needs to go through for his own sake.
I also know that if I truly love him, I need to love him enough to let him go.
Sometimes you need to think about that: If you love your family, think about those transitions and plan for them, even if that transition is not the way you had hoped it would go. But you make the decision. Lack of planning makes it much more difficult on your family in the long run.
I implore you to have those difficult conversations with someone who can guide you through the options. There is not always a black and white answer. And indeed, the answer may evolve over time. But get the conversation started. Have the difficult conversation with your attorney and with your family.
In the end, even after you are gone, people will appreciate what you have done.