For most of us, the part of life we least prepare for is the end. I was reminded of that last summer when a friend and colleague, Steve, died suddenly leaving loved ones to sort out his finances and business affairs.
Death is perhaps the most inevitable part of life, and yet few of us really expect it, see it coming, or get some kind of two-minute warning to prepare for it. It seems like we’ll always have time to prepare, but the truth is the only guaranteed time we have is right now. Unfortunately, there is always something more important to do “right now.”
The topic of planning for the end of life came up recently during a regular meeting I have with a group of executives who also knew Steve. We called it the “green box exercise,” after a hypothetical green box that contains the information, instructions and documents that will allow those you leave behind to take inventory of your assets, square your accounts, and carry on your legacy.
Many think simply drafting a will is sufficient, and while it should be among the contents of your green box, it is just a start. Your green box should have all your key financial documents, contracts, statements for all of your accounts, a list of your financial advisors (or anyone, for that matter, who should be contacted in the event of your death), and how to reach them, as well as the passwords for all of your accounts.
If you own a business, putting your hopes and intentions for that business in writing will ensure they will not be lost in translation. You can convey those goals by telling someone close to you, but writing them down will increase the chances that your plans will be carried out. Your green box should contain the names of key employees, the detailed status of your business, and a clear plan for its future.
The conversations you have now with those around you will only reinforce the instructions you leave in your green box. Think of it as a chance to create your own mission statement while you are still here to articulate it fully. Now is the time to spell out what your values are, what charities you want supported, what relationships you want to influence.
Your green box is also a place to leave your final messages to your loved ones. You can write letters or even record videos for your children, telling them what they mean to you and what your hopes are for them.
Once you fill that green box, the next step is to start living and communicating the contents of that box so that it is not just something your survivors find later. The message you leave them with will be that much more powerful if you can live it now.
When he died, my friend Steve was in the process of putting together what amounted to instructions for his loved ones should anything happen to him. Because he didn’t finish, he left some unanswered questions and uncompleted tasks. He was in his late 50s when he died, riding in a marathon cycling event. He was doing something he loved, living life to its fullest, unaware and unprepared for its end.
Thinking about Steve and about what it means to have a green box ready and filled made me realize I am not that prepared myself. I have done some of the things mentioned but not all. I am on this same journey too, and I also have some work to do.
What work do you have left to complete your green box?
Green Box Checklist
Letter to your spouse
Letter to each child
Funeral/Burial instructions (funeral home, burial information, special instructions)
List of 5 most important employees in the company & their strengths/weaknesses
Off balance sheet deals
List of personal and business people that should be contacted in the event of passing
Deals in process and evaluation of them
Strategy that I am thinking about but haven’t told anybody about
List of Trusted Advisors and their roles (may or may not be currently working with company) such as Lawyer, Accountant, etc.
Instructions not addressed in Will
Copies of POA documents
Copy of Passport, Birth Certificate
Copy of all credit cards
Copy of physical property titles
Personal stock portfolio information
Details of Life insurance- personal and company owned
Details of all other insurance
Copies of personal property valuations (Jewelry, guns, collectables, etc)
Personal financial statement
Extra passport photos
Mementos and to whom you’d like them given
Call to Action
Get started on your Green Box RIGHT NOW! Your Green Box will ensure your wishes will be carried out and your legacy will continue.
We offer exercises like this and much more in our MasterYclass - a year long class to help you Maximize Business Value. As business owners, we all come to a “Y” in the road, and we have to decide which way to go. This happens all the time - daily really. You have to decide which way is best for you, your business, your employees, and your customers. I’ve been there too. I have been down that road over 100 times. I know which way you need to go. Business is not complicated. Buyers want two things: revenue growth and a maintenance-free revenue stream. Our MasterYclass helps you accomplish just that - business growth and more fun running your business. Even if you aren't planning to sell your business anytime soon. Check out our website or register for our webinar about the class here.
If you need any help, just go to our website and click the button to schedule a call with me. And remember, we’re here to help. If we can help you in any way don’t hesitate to reach out!
Want to learn more? Check out our podcast:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Bronson is the founder and President of Mastery Partners, a company that helps business owners maximize business value, design exit strategy, and transition their business on their terms. Mastery utilizes proven techniques and strategies that dramatically improve business value that was developed during Tom’s career 100 business transactions as either a business buyer or seller. As a business owner himself, he has been in your situation a hundred times, and he knows what it takes to craft the right strategy. Bronson is passionate about helping business owners and has the experience to do it. Want to chat more or think Tom can help you? Reach out at email@example.com or check out his book, Maximize Business Value, Begin with The Exit in Mind (2020).
Mastery Partners, where our mission is to equip business owners to Maximize Business Value so they can transition their business on their terms. Our mission was born from the lessons we’ve learned from over 100 business transactions, which fuels our desire to share our experiences and wisdom so you can succeed.