One simple thing I have done for my wife and kids is to sit down and write a document about many things stored in my head about our big picture finances and running our farm. I’m glad I have finally spent the time to do the document even though I resisted for a very long time when Sharon kept asking me to do it. Sometimes it’s just hard to face your own mortality especially when you are healthy.
Sharon kept telling me that I had a lot of things stored in my head that were second nature to me or that I knew about, but if for some tragic reason I passed away, she and the kids would be scrambling to figure out during a time of grief and crisis.
So, we sat down together and while I verbally spit out all I could think of, she typed up a document that now runs about 26 pages. In it I noted things like which machines were purchased from what dealers, contact names and numbers for multiple dealers, accountants, lawyers, commodity marketing, and people who might be able to help. I wrote practical things like where our water wells are and how to turn the valves so that the house well can supply the barn in an emergency and vice versa. Where the main electrical breaker to the farm is and how to shut off the grain bins. She also has lists of websites, logins, contact names and numbers for almost everyone we deal with both personally and professionally.
She has copies of the contracts we have with different landlords and a nearby dairy, but I put copies of the spreadsheets I use to calculate the billings for each of them in the document so she will know how to figure them if need be. She also has been learning how to do these once a year.
I don’t have every single special thing in the document, but I have the major ones listed that Sharon and the kids will need to figure things out.
She is the one who does 99% of the accounting for the farm and our personal finances so it wasn’t like she didn’t know anything, but there were major parts of just running the farm business she was vaguely aware of but now she and the kids have the details.
Sharon has me update it a couple of times per year. We have also put it in Dropbox and given the kids permission to see it so if something happens to both Sharon and me, they will have the information. We have also put all our estate plans in the file – wills, trusts, POA’s, etc. – so everyone is on the same page at any time.
She has so much appreciated my efforts and it has reduced her stress thinking about what she would have to figure out if I passed away unexpectedly. She has told me that this is one huge way I have shown my love for her and the kids.
We urge you to think of writing things down for your family, and even making sure you have a will and an estate plan if necessary. Over the years we have seen families where the main provider has died, and the wife and kids don’t have a clue about the finances and it’s such stress and even anger at a time of death. Think of it as a way of showing your love.