Leaving Your Legacy Organizer
About the Guest
Would you loved ones know what to do if you passed away? For many of us, the answer would be no. Generosity guru and former widower Brian Kluth talks about the necessity of putting all your vital information in one place for your family members. Hear more about the valuable resource he created after the loss of his wife, the "I Love You Christian Legacy Organizer.
Would you loved ones know what to do if you passed away? Widower Brian Kluth talks about the necessity of putting all your vital information in one place for your family members.
Leaving Your Legacy Organizer
Bob: Have you thought about what you’re going to pass on to your kids—what you will pass on to the next generation? Brian Kluth says, “It’s a lot more than just stuff.”
Brian: Someone once said: “You don’t just leave your valuables to your family. You leave your values, and you leave your memories, and you leave the stories.” Whatever valuables you have—those will get quickly distributed and spent—probably within six months to a year. But it’s really the lessons, and the values, and—“What did you pass on?”—you want to pass that legacy on.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We ought to be intentional and purposeful about the values we’re going to pass on to our children and our children’s children. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I took a couple of days off—this was last year—and I decided—
Dennis: You earned them, by the way.
Bob: Well, thank you! [Laughter] I decided—
Dennis: We’ll give you a couple of days off a year, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: Very generous—very generous of you. [Laughter]
Dennis: Three!—Keith Lynch, the engineer, says, “Three.” I’m going to do one better. We’re going to give you four days off—
Bob: Four days off.
Dennis: —a year.
Bob: Well, I already took a couple last year. Part of what I did in my couple of days off was to go through and to put together the book that would—
Dennis: You finally did this!
Bob: I did. The book that has all of the information that Mary Ann would need to put her hands on—
Dennis: And how long ago did you promise you’d do that?
Bob: You know, it kind of slips my mind. [Laughter] I finally got it all put together, and I felt really good about it. A few months later, we were out with some friends. We were talking about having one of these books put together—that’s got all your financial details. I said, “Yes, I just did that.”
Mary Ann said, “Well, where is it?” I realized—you’ve got to, not only put it together, but then, you need to let your wife know where it is. [Laughter] It doesn’t do you any good if, six months after you’re gone, she goes, “Oh, that’s what this was.”
Dennis: Yes, it’s an organizer—
Dennis: —that literally goes out to the end of the matter—
Dennis: —your death. And it says: “Here is what you need to know. Here’s where the bank accounts are. Here’s—well, here are all of the instructions.”
Dennis: And it’s much more complicated than I can outline there.
Well, we’ve got a gentleman who has created, really, a very thorough organizer. It’s called Because I Love You Christian Legacy Organizer. And it’s subtitled—and I can attest to this. I’ve looked this over—Valuable Forms for You, Your Spouse, Your Loved Ones, and Aging Parents. Brian Kluth joins us again on FamilyLife Today.
Brian, this is really important. I’ve done this as well. I did it within the time period, however, that I—
Bob: That you promised?
Dennis: —that I promised, here on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Stop it—stop!
Dennis: Bob did it too, but he was only about ten years late! [Laughter] Anyway, welcome to the broadcast. This is a great—this is a great concept, Brian.
Brian: Well, thanks. You know, it’s a huge need—everyone, listening to me right now—I mean, you have loved ones. You may have aging parents. You certainly have an aging spouse, if you are married—well, actually, the women have aging spouses. The men do not—I discovered.
Dennis: There you go—well-said.
Brian: Yes. But what I’ve discovered is—there is information and instructions you don’t have right now. I was a minister and did a lot of funerals. My own wife passed away from an eight-year cancer journey. My parents have both passed away. I had some things happen in my life—that I discovered that if you don’t get something down—if you don’t get things written down, you will leave your family or your spouse in a place of chaos, confusion / loss of cash.
There are so many problems that occur if family members do not have needed information.
Bob: I picked up your organizer; and I thought, “I would need to take more than a couple days off I think to fill this thing out.” I mean it’s very comprehensive. I think some people would look at this, Brian—and they’d just get overwhelmed, just by flipping through the pages and go, “I can’t do this,”—and they’d give up.
Bob: So, how do you recommend somebody go about beginning a project like this?
Brian: Well, this particular manual is not something you fill-in from the front to the back. What you do is—you look over a page, and you just fill out a page, and you look at that one page. You fill it out to the best of your ability. I made this in memory of my dad. My dad said, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” So, we put information—you put information down.
I’ll give you an example. One of the pages is a list of doctors, dentists, plumbers, car dealer, insurance person, banker—or whatever.
So, you just fill it out with your spouse. You sit, watching TV one night. You just kind of—one knows some of it, and the other knows some of it—and you kind of fill it out.
Well, I did this with my wife a number of years ago. She said, “Well, when you travel, I need to know this information so I can take care of things.” Well, my wife passed away, and about—I don’t know—four or five months after she passed away, I had three teenage children. I was a single dad.
My teenage daughter comes to me and says, “Dad, I need to go to the orthodontist.” I said, “Okay, great. Where is that?” And she said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, honey, what’s his name?” She said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, what street is it on?” “I don’t know. Oh, and Dad, I need to go to the eye doctor too.” I’m like, “Well, where is he?” “I don’t know.” “What’s his name?” “I don’t know.”
I realized, as the dad, that I had never taken my daughter to the orthodontist; and I had never taken her to the eye doctor.
I had no idea how to get my daughter to the eye doctor or the orthodontist in a city of half a million people. And then, I remembered we had filled out that page. I went and I found this book, and all the information I needed was there.
What I tell people is: “You just look through this manual and say: ‘Well, what do we know? What can I put down?’” There are a hundred questions to ask aging relatives in this manual.
Bob: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that. That’s an interesting place to start—
Bob: —what is, essentially, a document to provide data—for after you die—you start with a family history.
Brian: A family history. Yes, and again, when my wife was—we knew she was going to pass away in a few months. I sat down and I asked probably 18/20 questions out of the 100-some listed—and I wrote that down.
But I wrote those pages—my mom had died. She was the last of four sisters to die, and we were having a family reunion the next summer.
So, we’re all sitting around, talking about life and missing everybody. Some questions came up about the family. I suddenly realized: “There is no one here to answer that anymore. They are gone, and we never asked the questions.”
So, I sat down one day and I said: “What do I wish I would have asked my mom? What do I wish I would have asked my grandparents or my aunts and uncles, while they were living?” I came up with over a hundred questions. There are families that, literally, take this manual to Christmas gatherings, and Easter gatherings, and Thanksgiving gatherings, or Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day. Then, everybody, around the room, goes and circles a question. Then, Mom or Dad answers it—and just gleaning that legacy.
Someone once said, “You don’t just leave your valuables to your family. You leave your values, and you leave your memories, and you leave the stories.”
Bob: Yes. In fact, you start off by referencing Psalm 78 in here—
—where it talks about passing on to the next generation, not only the truth of what is contained in the Scriptures, but also what has been your experience with God.
Brian: Yes, exactly. Yes, you want to pass that legacy on. It’s—whatever the valuables you have—those will get quickly distributed and spent—probably within six months to a year.
Brian: But it’s really the lessons, and the values, and “What did you pass on?”
One day, I was talking to a guy about his family. He said, “My family—we’re givers.” I said: “Oh, you’re givers. Well, what do you mean by that?” He said, “My great, great, great grandpa in the Great Depression—he got a dime. When he got a dime, one day, for working, he gave a penny to God.” He said: “You know what? Ever since then, my family—we’ve always made sure we give to God first.”
I thought: “Wow! Here, 80 years later, this guy had a legacy in his family. His DNA was—their family said, ‘No matter how tough it gets, we’re going to be givers.’” And that was passed on through a story.
That story impacted him, four generations later—the fact that, in their family, they would honor God—and they would give no matter how tough it ever got.
Dennis: We could ask you questions almost on every page. I have to ask you about the family tree. You’ve got a spot here for collecting the names of your ancestors and showing where your family came from and where your spouse’s family came from. Explain why you’ve found that to be important.
Brian: Well, I just realized that—like with my wife, in particular—if I didn’t get it written down—that history—it’s all going to be lost. She comes from a Norwegian family / a Norwegian heritage. They had records in their family—okay—records back to about the 1500’s—detailed records: I mean, how many sheep were on the farm. What repairs they did on the farm, back in Norway. What was the—the children that were born / who died. If there was a scrap in the family, it got recorded.
That all happened because somebody wrote things down—somebody put information down.
Somewhere, you have to have a place to ask the questions and, then, a place to write it down. What I try to do with this legacy organizer is—it gives you one place to put things down—so, at least, you have it.
So, my wife—I just sat with her on the coach, before she passed away, and said, “Just remind me again the cousins, the aunts, the uncles—where are they from?” She told me and reminded me of those people.
Bob: I’m sure you have talked to folks who have come to you—six months / a year—after a loved one has died and have said: “I was so glad that I went through the effort of putting this together. We didn’t know that my wife / or my husband was going to die, and to have this handy…”
I think I told you, earlier, about a friend of mine who, when her husband died suddenly—he had what he called a “Death Book.” She knew about it—knew where it was. A bunch of us moved in and pulled that out.
All that we needed was there—in terms of account numbers and insurance—all of the detailed records. Well, it made the logistics—that you had to deal with in the midst of grieving / you have to deal with these issues—made it so much easier—was a great gift he had left to his wife.
Brian: Yes, ultimately, it’s about loving your spouse and your family enough to take some time and to put some things down.
I think, in the back of the book, there are “40 Things to Do after a Loved One Dies.” I had one lady say she, literally, held on to this manual for a year. It guided her through everything she needed to do. Then, she said, “Without this, Brian, I would have been lost.”
I was going through the “40 Things to Do after a Loved One Dies.” One of them—it literally had a $50,000 impact on my family—that money—I did not know existed. I was going through my own list, and I checked off one of the boxes. I notified a particular agency about something. They said, “Oh, by the way, you have a $50,000 benefit for your family,”—that I had no idea existed.
My father—this is a defining moment for me—my dad, before he died—he sat down with my mother. On a napkin, he wrote down all the finances because he had always handled them. And he told her various things. One of the things he said was, “I took out an extra insurance policy for $125,000 from the fire department, where I worked.” So, my mom wasn’t aware of that. Anyway, he told her, “That’s so, when I die, you will get that money.”
Well, he dies. My mother got a letter saying: “Mrs. Kluth, sorry your husband died. Here’s a check for $25,000.” I said, “Mom, you call them back. You tell them that you have a letter from your husband that the value is $125,000.” She called them back; and they said: “We’re sorry. We made a typographical error. Please send us the check, and we’ll send you $125,000.”
If my dad had not written that down on the napkin, my mother and my family would have been out $100,000. I just discovered that: “Boy, you’ve got to get information down.”
Dennis: I had a conversation with one of my daughters about our broadcast today. I told her that we were going to talk about this organizer. She made the comment that I think the typical person does: “Oh, that’s for older people. You just do that toward the end of your life; right, Dad?” I said, “No, Sweetie.” I said, “This is really something, even where you guys are—in the midst of raising your kids and putting your family together—that you need to begin piecing together and have in place.”
You’ve got a section in here where you have the guardian choices for children.
Dennis: And I know that, when Barbara and I did this—we didn’t have your organizer. We didn’t have anything nearly as structured as this—but this is one of the things we spent a long time, working on, in our will.
Bob: Yes, we froze up on this. When we got asked this question—five kids—we’re thinking, “We want them all to be together.” So, which of our friends are we going to say, “Hey,”—
Dennis: Their former friends.
Bob: —“here’s a little gift for you!” [Laughter]
Dennis: But we had more arguments—it wasn’t arguments.
That’s maybe a misstatement. But Barbara and I had more stimulating discussion about “Okay, what do you do?” If you can’t find a family that will take six, can you find a family or two that will take three each or two, two, and two?
Bob: Tell listeners how you guys, ultimately, resolved that issue in your plan because it helped us know what to do with our five kids.
Dennis: Well, we formed kind of a committee—who would help place the children. They were very, very close friends, who weren’t listed as guardians—
Dennis: —three very wise, godly advisors; okay? Then, we left a list of parents—kind of prioritized and what are wishes were—all six would go to one. With that came a cash award because we figured—
Brian: “They come with money!” [Laughter]
Dennis: —they’re going to need a bigger house; okay?
But if, after going through the list, not one family could take our children, we then said: “Then, it’s three and three,” and, “If not, then, two, two and two.” We never did figure out what to do if none of our friends wanted any of our kids, but—here is the interesting thing, Brian—we redid that list several times—
Dennis: —over the next 20 years because we had six kids in ten years. The first time we did it, I think our oldest was 11 or 12—something like that—and you’re at a certain stage in raising your family. Well, when you get into junior high, things begin to appear in your own kids and other families, where you may say, “You know, I’m not quite sure the values were quite the same as we thought they were.” So, we would adjust it.
It was interesting—to see the names that got added, the names scratched out, the names that moved to the top of the list—not that they were perfect parents because none are perfect—but the process was very, very healthy for Barbara and me to go through.
Brian: And again, no matter who is listening—it might be your own family, where you’ve got to sort some things out—whether you are in your 30s or 40s.
The other thing that—the way this manual gets used a lot is people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s have parents in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. They don’t even know what to ask Mom and Dad.
Dennis: And feel uncomfortable even broaching the subject.
Brian: Yes, exactly. And so, that’s a big—and one of the ways it gets used is for people to use it with their aging parents.
My mother—we had a meeting with her, talking about her funeral wishes. There is a funeral page here, “How to Plan Your Funeral.” We sat down with my mother to do it. I remember she said: “Why are we having this meeting anyway? You’re my kids. You should know me.” And I’m like, “Mom, what are your favorite songs that you want sung at your funeral?” She said, “You’re my kids. You should know.” I said, “We don’t know.” And so—but she knew what songs she wanted.
And then, I said, “What about pall bearers?” “Well, you should know.” I said, “Mom, we don’t know.” And she knew who she wanted to be her pall bearers. We went down the list of questions on the funeral planning page.
She knew answers to every single thing, but she had never told a single person. Because we were able to glean the information, by using the page—she passed away / we honored her wishes. We did everything she wanted. It was a wonderful time—wonderful celebration of her life.
Sometimes, people don’t even know what to be asking aging parents or even be asking their spouse. This tries to kind of do the leg-work—you just kind of fill-in the blanks. And there is a digital version or a paper version. You can just update it as you need it.
But I really saw, again, literally, 90-100 percent of people when I would do funerals—loved ones did not have information they needed. I knew I needed to do something to try to make a difference—try to make a dent in people’s lives because this will affect future generations.
This will affect—even like the whole thing of heirlooms and promised inheritances. If you don’t get things down in writing, some families fracture over those things—“That shotgun from Grandpa—that was promised to me.”
“Well, it’s not written anywhere.” Some families never recover from the hurt that goes on at the end of someone’s life. So, this tries to just give you a place to get everything down.
Dennis: Yes, explain what you do on that because you actually start with a little bit of an inventory. If Bob and I were brothers, you would ask Bob to list some of the things he wants and me to list what I wanted.
Brian: Well, yes.
Dennis: And you begin to prioritize them. You settle some of the issues, in advance, it sounds like.
Brian: When my mother-in-law passed away, my wife, Sandy—my first wife, Sandy—had two sisters. I actually went through and inventoried everything she owned. We, then, gave those inventory sheets to the three sisters. The instructions were—and this manual gives you how to do this—but the instructions were: “Put a number one by something you really want. Put a number two by something you are willing to take. Put a number three by something you are not interested in.”
And we did that. It was very fascinating because everybody got their number one’s. There was no conflict with what they really wanted. The number two’s—we just kind of equally distributed—what they’d be willing to take. And number three—we called the Salvation Army and said, “Come and get it,” because nobody wanted it.
I mean, there are a lot of people listening to us—someone died, and you just ended up taking everything because you just didn’t feel you could let it go. You get stuck with people’s stuff that nobody wanted. This gave us a way to be able to kind of give people what they wanted, or what they’d be willing to take, but have a way to also say: “You know what? Nobody is interested in these items.” Then, they were freely given away.
Dennis: This is—I just want to be clear—this is not about money-grubbing. This is about being a good steward.
Dennis: I’m thinking of single parents. They would be particularly vulnerable if they were killed in a car wreck or came down with a serious illness. These are important matters to have in place if you’re raising a family and there is not a guardian clearly set up to take care of your kids.
On the other hand, there is also—as you just mentioned—our parents. This can really help family members work things out, in advance, and not end up being divided over a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter.
Having done this—not your book, specifically, but something very similar—I can just vouch for it. Once it’s in place, you can breathe deeper; but once it’s in place, you have to go back and revise it each year because passwords change, locations of accounts change—
Bob: So, I need to take another couple days off, I think, this year—just to go home and tackle this. [Laughter]
Dennis: No—no way!
Brian: Well, I’ve preached at some churches on this subject. It’s been interesting. After the message, there is not a line—there’s a mob. There are 200-300 people standing, trying to get this, because I’ve touched on a nerve that everybody is feeling.
It is like: “Wow! I don’t have the information I need. I wish I knew what I needed to get…”—whether that’s from your spouse or from your aging parents. And so, hopefully, this will really bless a lot of people.
Bob: Well, and I think our listeners are going to be interested in getting a copy of this and taking the time to go through and get stuff ready. I mean, it’s a part of how we care for a spouse, or for our kids, or how we get our affairs in order. You don’t wait until you’re in your 80s to do because we don’t know when it’s going to be necessary.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find Because I Love You Christian Legacy Organizer that Brian Kluth has put together, along with Brian’s book, Experience God as Your Provider. Both resources are available to order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” for more information; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And we can let you know how you can get these resources sent to you.
Now, I suppose it is probably too late for me to suggest this today; but we have some friends who live out in Boise, Idaho—Kent and Kimberly Kalpakjian. They are celebrating 22 years of marriage today. We want to say, “Congratulations!”
I was going to suggest that they ought to sleep in and go get breakfast at Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro, where they serve breakfast until two o’clock in the afternoon—maybe tomorrow. Maybe that’s the plan. Tomorrow, you go to Goldy’s for a special post-anniversary breakfast. But we want to thank Kent and Kimberly for their partnership with us, here at FamilyLife.
If it weren’t for folks, like them, and folks like, frankly, some of you who pitch in to make FamilyLife Today possible, we couldn’t do what we do. We’re grateful for those of you who call, or write, or who go online and donate to make FamilyLife Today possible.
We are a non-profit organization. Your donations all come together to cover more than 60 percent of the expenses associated with this ministry. So, we’re grateful when we hear from you.
If you can make a donation today, we’d like to express our gratitude by sending you the FamilyLife calendar called “A Spirit-filled Year.” It looks at the fruit of the Spirit, and it actually begins—the first page of the calendar is October of 2014. Then, it carries you through all of next year. It’s our gift to you when you make a donation to support the ministry. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care”; and you can make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation over the phone. Or you can write a check and mail it to FamilyLife Today at Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Keep in mind—mention that you’d like the calendar when you get in touch with us so that we know to send it to you; okay?
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to a mom who was—well, who was over-extended—who had said, “Yes,” to too many things. Crystal Paine joins us, and we talk about how she brought some order out of the chaos of her life. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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