Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

New Financial Order

River Terrace, Napa, California, USA

August 22, 2016

This essay, New Financial Order, is the eighth in a group of ten on Money:
  1. Money And Us
  2. Give Me Money (That's What I Want?)
  3. Laurence Platt Video Interview III
  4. Exceptionally Rich
  5. Stake To Play
  6. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Finances
  7. Profit And Loss
  8. New Financial Order
  9. Really, Really Bad
  10. Standing Up To Gold
in that order.

I am indebted to Charlene Afremow who inspired this conversation.

Artwork by The United States Mint - Collage by Laurence Platt - Napa Valley, California, USA
"One Dollar"

Paperwork. Financial paperwork in particular. It's a bear. I know what my intentions are for my beneficiaries who will inherit my assets. The question is: does everyone else who needs to know, know? More than that, will they honor my intentions when the time comes? Also, I know where all my critical financial paperwork is. So the next question is: does everyone else who needs to know, also know? The confront with financial paperwork is only interimly whether or not it's all accurate, up to date, and in order (and it better be all that, and more). Ultimately it's whether or not when I'm no longer here, it's in a place my beneficiaries will know about, where they'll be able to find it, recognize what it is, and be able to access that which it represents, and that the financial organizations involved will also allow  them to access that which it represents.

No, it's more than that - it's much  more actually. It's once I started making the most basic inquiries about my beneficiaries accessing their inheritance and assigned people managing my affairs should that become necessary, it became apparent a simple last will and testament does not  suffice for most financial organizations: most financial organizations want the names of beneficiaries and decision makers entered into and included in any and all of their financial paperwork. Simply declaring my intentions in a last will and testament, doesn't suffice (yes, you'd think it does, and you'd think it it would, and you'd think it it should  ... but trust me: more often than not, it doesn't and it won't).

What I discovered (which came as a complete surprise to me) is in the state of California, my assets are likely to end up in probate whether or not I leave a last will and testament  if the correct designations aren't included in the financial paperwork for each and every financial instrument I own. And if they do end up in probate, my beneficiaries will still have a good shot at receiving the assets I intend for them to inherit ... but  ... not without a considerable expenditure of time, effort, and complication (aka sheer hassle)  on their parts, not to mention the additional expense involved in consulting lawyers to guide them through the probate minefield - an unnecessarily wasted expense which would eat into whatever percentage of my assets the probate court eventually allocates to them.

I realized I had to do something, and I realized I had to do it thoroughly. And even though there's no emergency, I realized (if only for my own peace of mind) I had to do it soon. That's when I noticed (interestingly enough, as soon as I committed to it) this entire process is something I've either been avoiding, or have simply not had my attention on. It's an aspect of my life for which I'm clearly responsible, and which (like everything else) should be impeccably and immaculately handled - that is if, like anything else, it's going to be handled at all.

I began by reviewing three documents I drew up a while back, to see if they still reflect my intentions. They are:

 1)  Last will and testament:

I noticed my last will and testament adequately reflects how I intend my assets to be distributed. During my research, however, I discovered a last will and testament covers distribution of property and possessions, but even if it explicitly mentions the distribution of monies and financial instruments to my beneficiaries, the financial organizations concerned may not honor it unless the same intentions for my beneficiaries are hard-wired into their paperwork as well. Yes it does seem like requiring the same work to be done twice. Yet that's the way it is; that's what's required.

 2)  Durable power of attorney:

The purpose of the durable power of attorney document is to designate a person or people who will manage my legal and financial affairs, should I become unable to do so. And again, I discovered when financial organizations are dealing with someone else making legal and financial decisions on my behalf, they may not honor my durable power of attorney declaration unless the same intentions are hard-wired into their paperwork as well. Yes it also seems like requiring the same work to be done twice. Yet that's the way it is; that's what's required.

 3)  Durable power of attorney for health care:

The purpose of the durable power of attorney for health care document is to designate a person or people who will manage my health care and medical affairs, and in particular my health care decisions, should I become unable to to so. As far as I could tell, this document is adequate the way it is. However it wouldn't surprise me if in spite of carefully and explicitly written durable power of attorney for health care declarations, there could still be contests of wills with doctors and / or hospitals in this regard. That's a bridge which will have to be crossed later if necessary (hopefully it won't be necessary at all). There doesn't seem to be any more preparation that can be made for this eventuality, more than that which I've already made, so this is complete for me.

I then began the process of contacting each and every financial organization I have connections with regarding my investment accounts, checking account, life insurance policy, and safety deposit box in my bank's vault. Each of them provided paperwork for me to complete, in which I designated all my beneficiaries (who are already declared in my last will and testament yet must be declared again in each financial instrument's paperwork in order to avoid probate) as well as designating who will manage each instrument should I become unable to do so (who are also already declared in my durable power of attorney document yet must be declared again in each financial instrument's paperwork in order to avoid probate).

In the case of my safety deposit box and its contents in the bank vault, it went even further than that. There was more paperwork to complete (of course) ... and  ... my children and I were all required to present ourselves at the bank together all at the same time  to complete and sign the paperwork to allow them to gain access to my safety deposit box, should I become unable to do so. Not one at a time at our own convenience. No, all of us together  all at the same time. Like I said, financial paperwork is a bear.

Finally I had all the right paperwork for all my financial instruments complete with all the right designations in all the right places, signed, notarized, and filed with all the right people in all the right financial organizations. And just as I was about to sit back and breathe a big sigh of relief, a question occurred to me: "Who, other than me, knows where all this paperwork is located?". As soon as that question crossed my mind, I realized my work wasn't yet complete.

Scanning mentally through the location(s) of all my critical financial paperwork, I realized there are only so many locations I need to make known. The list is a brief one comprising four locations which I transcribed into an e-mail to be copied to those who need to know. Firstly, all my paperwork, financial and otherwise, is stored close together in the same area of the Cowboy Cottage. All of the critical financial paperwork is on the same shelf in clearly marked, alphabetized folders. In some cases, it's only duplicates in the folders: the originals are in my safety deposit box. Secondly, the key to my safety deposit box is stored elsewhere in the Cowboy Cottage - also clearly marked. Thirdly, there are the names and locations and contact information for the people who manage my financial instruments at the organizations where they're held, and a full disclosure of each financial instrument they manage as well. And fourthly, there's the bank where my checking account is held, and in whose vault my safety deposit box resides.

That's it! There's nothing else. Having transcribed that list and any necessary clarifications pertaining to it into an e-mail, I pressed [SEND]. Then  I declared this project complete.

Wow! Finally. It felt like an elephant had crawled off my back.

The default  (if you will) in the three possible options for taking responsibility for your life, is taking responsibility for your life while you're on the planet. The two other options are taking responsibility for coming here in the first place  ie for being born, and taking responsibility for whatever shape you leave your affairs in ie taking responsibility for how they'll be after you've died - which is tantamount to taking responsibility for dying, yes? It's not commonly thought that you can take responsibility for being born ... but you can:  not like you'll provide proof  of it, but rather like a stand you take that you are. So why take responsibility for being born in the first place if there's no proof that you are? Because anything you take responsibility for becomes an opportunity for an increased sense of quality of life.

As for taking responsibility for dying, since it's going to happen anyway, there's an opportunity to take responsibility for what's so. Taking responsibility for what's so (even without proof ie simply as a stand) becomes another opportunity for an increased sense of quality of life. And if you're going to take responsibility for dying, then a question worth asking is "What condition will my affairs be in after I'm gone? ie what will be the condition / state of whatever I leave behind for my beneficiaries, heirs, and successors?".

I'm choosing as a stand, to leave it all as complete and as transparent and as easy for them as I possibly can. That's not merely because I want to leave my affairs (and my financial affairs in particular) in a state of transparency and ease and order which honors who my beneficiaries, heirs, and successors are, and makes it easy for them to access them without imposing any unnecessary complications on this inevitable process in the future when it's time inexorably will come. It's also (and mostly) for the peace of mind and the sense of being complete this new financial order affords me now in the present while I'm still here on the planet with them.

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