The news was startling. On Sunday, Jan. 26, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, including parents with children, died in a fiery helicopter crash in California.
That Sunday morning, Kobe and his daughter attended the 7 a.m. mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, and both received Holy Communion. Midst sad tragedy, knowing they started their day worshiping Our Lord before leaving for a basketball practice event is some comfort. Why God elected to take them and seven other souls at that time is beyond human comprehension, but dying in a state of grace is something all believers strive for.
Death is a fact of life but we tend to put it out of mind as we go about the daily round. More than 40,000 people die each year in road accidents in America, an average of more than 90 a day. Roughly four to five people die on Georgia roads every day. Worldwide, vehicle crashes kill approximately 1.24 million people a year. We know that, yet we climb into vehicles and drive without a thought.
What saddens us is when death strikes close to home, taking a loved one, parent, sibling, friend, someone we respect and revere like Kobe. We are struck by the loss and the impact on families and others. Getting on with life as a survivor is a difficult challenge, a life transition of major proportions.
There are 58,195 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A monument statue is one thing. Casualty statistics are just that, numbers. But each name on that wall was a living person — son, daughter, spouse, parent, father, mother, loved one, friend, buddy. When you humanize death, it pains the heart. We felt that with the news about Kobe, his daughter, and the others, compounding the tragedy of it all.
Such jarring events bring home the fact that, yes, we need a life plan, but we also need a death plan because the holy books tell us we never know the day or the hour. We’re especially saddened by loss in the prime of life, the passing of a young person, a future cut short. But no matter our age, as an adult we are called to consider those we will leave behind which is why living and testamentary estate planning is in order. Up-to-date wills, powers of attorney for assets and health care, advance directives, trusts where applicable, and primary and contingent beneficiary designations. Adequate levels of life insurance should be in place to protect loved ones and others from the economic consequences of your passing.
Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, would not fly in the helicopter with Kobe. Losing a husband and daughter is bad enough, but her three remaining children, including a 7-month old new baby, blessedly still have their mom. Parents must think the unthinkable. If you and your spouse were killed in a common mishap, who would raise your children? In your wills, you should specify who would become the guardians for your children until they reach adulthood. Contingent guardians should be named in the event the primary designees could not serve.
As noted, life insurance should be in place to indemnify the surviving spouse, and in the event of a joint death, the guardians and their financial obligations to raise your child. Trust provisions and beneficiary designations should be discussed with your attorney relative to life insurance proceeds and other assets such as inherit and control property directly. Thinking should include timing of distributions of assets when the child reaches adulthood.
Business owners have a particular responsibility to family members, employees, and customers or clients. A succession plan should be in place to assure the ongoing viability of the business. Often, for a closely held business owner, the business is his or her primary investment. A succession plan, an “exit plan,” is better framed as a “growth and continuity” plan to assure that value passes to those you wish to benefit, and to fund the retirement you envision if you are blessed with a long and full life. Too many owners are so busy working “in the business,” they procrastinate relative to working “on the business” and the building of sustainable and marketable enterprise value.
Kobe Bryant had ups and downs in his marriage and his life but he always bounced back and progressed as a husband, father, man, and example. He once said, “Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is a chance for me to rise.” That he did.
Pray for the souls lost on that sad Sunday. Pray for their families and those that loved them and will miss them. Life’s a gift. Treasure every second, minute and day.
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;firstname.lastname@example.org. Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.