3 Widows – A Conversation – A Personal Tragedy That Launched a Mission
“It started with a whisper,” says Survivorship Now founder, Kristi Curry. “I was working in financial advising for a big firm in the 90’s when we had three widows in one year, none of whom had any idea about what to do when their husbands passed away, even though they had financial plans and wills in place.”
“In 2002, that whisper became a tap on the shoulder when my parents asked me to be executor of their estate and I realized their estate plan raised more questions than it answered.”
“That tap on the shoulder became a slap when my 50-year-old brother was killed in a car crash and we couldn’t find his will. His legacy was tarnished and this put me on a mission to raise awareness about how important and easy practical planning is.”
“I’ve seen death done wrong and death done right – there’s a world of difference between the two.”
Kristi will never forget that year. It was the 90’s and she was working in the financial advising business. She had three widows enter the scene in one year – all different ages. Their husbands had handled everything, including creating financial plans and wills. But when it came to the nitty-gritty details of how to pay bills, understanding their financial situation, knowing where important documents were kept or even knowing how to manage home maintenance, these 3 ladies were in the dark.
“I saw just how chaotic and frightening it is for a spouse to have to step in and figure things out at a time when they’re already traumatized. One woman didn’t even know where to service her car. Even though their husbands had some things covered, these women didn’t know what they had, where things were or what to do. That’s when I first became aware of just how “siloed” information can become when you’re part of a couple,” says Kristi.
The Conversation that Launched a Business…
In 2002, Kristi’s parents asked her to be executor of their estate. But when they went over her parents’ financial and estate plans, she quickly saw that these documents barely covered the things she really needed to know. In fact, the conversation raised more questions than it answered!
“As my parents started aging, my mom and I eventually had ‘The Talk.’ Yes, it’s the talk about what they wanted to happen when they pass away. (Gulp!) Not a conversation I really wanted to have, but being the person responsible for making things happen, I welcomed it! The year was 2002 and the conversation went something like this:
Mom: “Here are our wills and other legal documents.”
Mom: “Here are our files of accounts.”
Mom: “Here are the keys to our safe deposit box at the bank.”
Me: “Uh – which bank do you use?”
Me: “Which branch? Will I be able to access the box?”
Mom: “I am not sure, I will have to check on it.”
Me: Nodding OK
Mom: “We have life insurance and these IRAs.”
Me: “Are the beneficiaries current?” (As the former employee of a major financial advising firm, I knew this was critical)
Mom: “Good question, I will have to call my advisor.”
Me: “Uh, OK.” (I started getting the sense there were a lot more questions than I anticipated)
Me: “What do you and Dad want me to do with all your stuff? Do you need to write that down?”
Mom: “I am sure you will figure that out.”
Me: (Inside my head): “Uh, that’s how families break up!”
Mom: “We want to be cremated so don’t spend a lot on services or funerals. In fact, I think I know which funeral home we want to use. They advertise cheap cremations.”
Me: “Do you know how much these things cost and do you have funds to cover the expenses?”
Mom: “No, you will have to check around and then you decide.”
Me: (Totally floored by the thought that I would be calling and shopping around for funeral services right after losing my parents) “I don’t think that is the best time to do that…”
Me: “If you die first, then where will Dad want to live?”
Mom: “That would probably be a good question for him. I know I want to stay in this house as long as possible if he dies first.”
Me: “I think I need to write this all down…I have a lot of questions.”
Kristi took the answers to those questions, and dozens more, and created the first “Now and Then” plan for her parents. From there, she started creating plans for other family members and then for friends. With each plan, she discovered numerous pitfalls with the way people had things set up and it gave her a lot of satisfaction to help people avoid costly mistakes.
In January 2006, Kristi opened Survivorship Now, offering practical planning and executor assistance to clients across the country.
The Tragedy that Launched a Mission…
Despite being in the business of helping people avoid leaving a mess for their families, Kristi has experienced exactly the type of devastation that she helps others avoid.
In 2012, her 50-year-old brother, Charlie, was driving to the dentist when he was suddenly killed in a car accident. At a time when she should have been mourning her brother, she went into “business autopilot” rifling through papers, hunting down a will and trying to put all the pieces of his life’s puzzle together quickly. Charlie died without a will and his lack of planning meant that there were no provisions made for his teenage son. He left behind a heartache for those he loved most. After all, he was only 50 and it death wasn’t suppose to come to those so young.
“I’ll never forget having to try to explain to my nephew why his Dad’s estate was handled the way that it was. Without a will, my hands were tied and there was nothing I could do,” says Kristi.
Charlie’s sudden death and the mess he left behind turned Kristi’s business into a mission to raise awareness of this issue and create the tools and training that people need to easily create practical plans themselves, so they can save their families from this type of devastation.
Planning Delivers Peaceful Celebration…
Planning works. In December 2013, Kristi lost her mom, Dottie. Dottie passed with a plan. Kristi and her siblings knew exactly what to do. They not only had a wonderful celebration of her life – one that they knew that she wanted – they also easily settled her estate quickly and without conflict.
“Since I opened my doors in 2006, I have lost a brother and both parents. I can tell you first hand about the differences of being prepared and not being prepared and leaving your family in a mess. My parents had a plan. My brother did not. That is why I started this business. Having a plan in place is invaluable to a family in crisis. I know.”
This is Charlie! He’s our wise old guide to “Now and Then” Planning
Feel uncomfortable talking about illness and death? Most people are. I’m here to help you change that!