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“Stop Talking Like That, Grandma!”

By Marie Burns October 21, 2023 Managing Money

I don’t remember what age it started, but, at one point, the grandma I visited the most started ending each visit, phone conversation or otherwise, with a comment like, “Well, if I’m still around, I will see you next time.” At first, I didn’t give it much thought but then she kept insinuating the same message every time… that she may not be around much longer.

She didn’t have a specific health ailment but was seeing friends and family members about her age pass away. Now, I am watching family and friends that are my parents’ age getting unexpected calls, attending funerals, and sending sympathy cards regularly. It’s no wonder it became top of mind, and it’s helped me better understand my grandmother’s mindset.

Scolding Grandma

With October being National Estate Planning Awareness Month, it’s important to be aware that about 60% of Americans still pass away without estate planning documents in place. It’s a tough subject to want to address, so the majority don’t. And even when they do, it can be challenging.

One retiree told me recently that she was trying to communicate with her adult children verbally about her written wishes and the location of those documents when one of the teenage grandchildren happened to walk by and overheard some of the conversation.

“Stop talking like that, Grandma!” was his scolding reaction. He wasn’t the intended recipient of the information in this case, but his words definitely reflect a common family reaction when trying to talk about what can feel like a difficult topic.

Grandma as a Widow

On the one hand, we have what has been referred to as a tsunami in the United States, with folks retiring to the tune of 10,000/day for the next 10-15 years! And with health care and medical advancements, it’s projected that many may spend over a third of their lifetime in retirement.

But on the other hand, the average age of a widow in the United States is 57. So those young, unexpected loss of life events continue to happen as well. 80% of married men die married, and 80% of married women die single. And since this isn’t an IF but a WHEN situation, we women should be especially realistic about preparing for it sooner than we ever anticipate it happening.

Soapbox for Grandmas

The number one reason people don’t buy life insurance is that they fear they will jinx themselves and die sooner. I have a feeling that mindset may be at play here with estate planning as well. But the reality is that we all know someone who has died unexpectedly young.

We hope that won’t be us or anyone in our family but to do nothing about something inevitable at whatever age seems not only irresponsible but unloving to me. Sorry, this is a soapbox for me, likely because I am in an industry that sees these sad stories regularly.

Sad Stories

I talked with a woman who had been widowed young with two small children, and no life insurance in place on her husband who had passed away unexpectedly. Moving forward with nothing, she survived very well monetarily but to this day still struggles with the fear of financial insecurity because of her widowhood experience.

I watched a 401k plan go to the brother of a decedent instead of his long-time spouse because a beneficiary form was never updated after he married decades ago. I heard the story of a successful businessman, with four businesses, who left his wife a mess. No business succession documents, no estate planning documents, asset titles and beneficiaries were a mess, and there were four pole sheds of “stuff” to be dealt with.

A Need for Everyone

That is why everyone of every age who owns anything of value (i.e., bank accounts, real estate, retirement/investment accounts, etc.) and cares about who it goes to, needs to be aware of and take action on not just the estate planning documents but the “homework” as well that goes with that (account titling, beneficiary designations, etc.).

To help understand consequences, get organized, and finish taking action, there are many resources out there. Use whatever format is most likely to help you get this done: a book, webinar, course, DIY checklists, etc.

One example is a series of fillable checklists that I have designed and compiled, called the Everyone Bundle. And watch for my online course that will be a self-paced DIY process that will serve as your accountability partner to nudge, encourage, and hold your hand through the entire process.

Thanking Grandma

From my experience, helping families with financial planning for over 20 years, estate planning is still the most procrastinated, back burner area. So, instead of saying, “Don’t talk like that, Grandma!” my comment would be, “Thank you for talking like that, Grandma!” That way your family will thank you someday instead of cursing you for leaving them a mess.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you brought up the estate planning subject with your family? What was their reaction? Or is there something that is holding you back from talking with them and documenting your estate planning? Have you had or heard sad stories related to a lack of estate planning?

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My healthy mother in law Lue got diagnosed wity cancer at 81 which before that she was not on a single pill for anything. But by the time she was told about cancer it was in her bones etc she only lasted 3 wks and it was such an emotional roller coaster. We use to try and have conversations wity her regarding if she wanted to go into a seniors home eventually and about things such as creamtion etc and she didn’t want to really discuss it much. But she was forced to make quick decisions after being told that she probably would only have couple months to live. Eventho we were just in esrly 50’s It was a big eye opener for my husband and I which shortly after Lue passed we paid to be creamated and renewed our will. We didn’t want our son to have to stress about what to do when we passed. One of nicest gift you could ever give your children is to have important matters taken care of for yourself.

Marie Burns

Thank you for sharing this! You said exactly what I have seen and believe “One of the nicest gifts you could ever give your children is to have important matters taken care of for yourself.” I wish more women would agree and take action even before experiencing an eye opener event.


Not my Grandma, but I lived at the other end of the country from my widowed dad. By the time he got to his mid 70s telephone conversations often revolved round whose funeral he’d attended recently. If I visited for a few days, before I left he would show me where all his papers were kept “just in case something happens to me”.

He kept all his papers safe in a quilted tartan tea cosy which used to make me smile.

Marie Burns

Love the tea cosy decision he made, thanks for sharing!


My dad died 18 years ago and I still have the tea cosy, my mum bought it in the early 1950s and I don’t want to part with it.

The Author

Marie Burns, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), advocates for women’s financial health. She is an author of a financial checklist book series, speaker, podcast host and partners with clients to offer friendly financial advice in her independent practice Visit her at or

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