Unplanned Life Changes – Prepartions To Make For The Unexpected


There are many changes a person might go through in life.  Some of these changes are happy ones, such as a marriage or having a baby.  However, some changes are more negative, such as a death in the family or getting injured on the job.  Most of the negative changes in life are ones we have not planned for and therefore can have dire consequences on our finances, emotional health and life in general.  Of course, many of these changes cannot be foreseen, so it can be difficult to put plans in place to help prepare for them.  However, by working with the right professionals, you can do as much pre-planning as is possible and know that you’ve got knowledgeable people on your side when the unexpected happens.  Here are just a few of those experts you should be meeting with now or should consider meeting with once a life change occurs.

Financial Planner

“Losing a job, getting divorced, death of a spouse or family member or the economy slipping into a recession are just a few devastating unplanned life changes that everyone can prepare for with the proper plans in place,” says Matt Ferris with Ferris Financial Group.  “To address these issues, you should make sure you are evaluating your objectives and life plans at least on an annual basis.  As things change with your family and in the economy, you need to always make sure your financial objectives stay in line.  Everyone goes to the dentist to prevent anything bad happening with their teeth each year, why not continually give your financial plan a checkup?”

Even if you are lucky enough to not experience a devastating, unplanned life change, financial plans are important for everyone for many different reasons.  “It used to be you graduated from high school or college and found a full-time job that you would plan on staying at until retirement,” explains Ferris.  “When you were ready to retire, Social Security and a pension plan would be there to pay the bills.  As people start living longer, we are seeing the funding for Social Security not stay on pace with the distributions.  Also, not only do people have an average of six jobs after school, but not too many companies are still offering pension plans.  This raises the issue of ‘How am I going to pay bills in retirement and live comfortably without a pension and a dependence on Social Security?’  A financial planner can work with you to prepare a financial plan which changes over time but becomes your road map to retirement. “

Finding the right financial planner is, of course, a vital part of the process.  “When searching for a financial planner, always make sure that you are on the same page as the advisor in your personal as well as your professional life,” advises Ferris.  “Also, make sure it is someone you can trust and know will treat your money like it is their own.  Some of the best relationships that I have with clients are the ones that have the same values and morals as myself.”


“Change is inevitable.  It is this recognition that should provide motivation to all of us to plan for uncertain futures,” says John Berry with the Berry Law Firm.  “Working with an experienced attorney to prepare for future changes in circumstance and the accompanying challenges is generally the less expensive option and often saves a great deal of suffering and anxiety from doing nothing.”

“For example,” he continues, “while few enter into marriage with anything but the best of intentions, it has been demonstrated over half of all marriages now end in divorce.  While the Berry Law Firm assists clients in divorce, including child custody, child support, and alimony issues, many issues regarding separation can be resolved prior to marriage in a prenuptial agreement.  Prenuptial agreements help clients to discuss and agree to important issues in contemplation of the event of divorce and protect against future loss of assets.

Similarly, partners preparing to open a business together should consult with an attorney about a partnership, operating agreement, or buy-sell agreement prior to beginning their endeavor.  While most businesses, like marriages, are founded with the best of intentions, most businesses also fail within the first five years.  A well-written agreement should be drafted with the expectation the partners will, at some future point, are no longer able to work together.  What happens when partners cannot agree on a business strategy or investment?  When the business runs out of money?  How should disagreements be resolved?  In the event disagreements cannot be resolved, should one partner have the right to buy out another?  All of these important circumstances should be addressed prior to the first disagreement.

Finally, Isaac Asimov once wryly noted, “Life is pleasant.  Death is peaceful.  It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”  A good attorney can assist you not only in preparing for a peaceful death, through the creation of a will, but also in the preparation for the troublesome transition: a period of incapacity or disability.  The Berry Law Firm assists clients in the creation of durable powers of attorney for healthcare and financial matters which can prevent the need of going to court for a guardianship or conservatorship.   This simple planning can provide peace of mind, if you are ever incapacitated, you have provided written instructions to a designated power of attorney to follow your medical instructions and provided your attorney-in-fact the ability to help preserve and protect your estate.”

Funeral Pre-Planner

“Planning a funeral service involves many of the same things as any other big event,” states Bryan Block of Butherus, Maser & Love. “Can you imagine inviting a hundred close friends, family, and business associates to an event and ‘just wing it’ when it comes to coordinating the food, speakers, music, and decorations?  This is a terribly personal event that should reflect your preferences, wants, and desires more than any other.  Putting your selections on paper is one of the little things you can do ahead of time that will be the thing most appreciated by your family.  When there has been a long illness these plans are often discussed ahead of time.  My father dealt with cancer treatments for over a dozen years and we had many conversations about what he would want done for his service and how he would like things to go.  Many people don’t have the luxury of these conversations.  I was recently told by an insurance company that the typical married couple spends less than ½ hour discussing funeral plans.  That is pretty sad, and when there is an unexpected death this lack of shared information is more obvious than ever.  ‘I hope this is what they would have wanted’ is one of the phrases we hear all too often, and it can be avoided by having a short conversation. ”

“There are several important things to consider when preplanning,” adds Philip Roewert of Wyuka Funeral Home, Cemetery & Park. “You will want to consider any religious practices that are expected by your faith. You should consider your family members and their desire to participate in the service by not over planning ahead of time. Instead, make general suggestions that can be adapted or adjusted to make the funeral more meaningful to the participants. Refrain from impractical request. Your funeral director can discuss the many pre planned and preneed plans available, and help you select or design one suited to your personal needs. If at all possible, discuss these plans with your family, for the assurance your plans are appropriate, and for their cooperation in respecting them at death. Thoughtful preparation can offer peace of mind not only to the one making the plans but also to those left behind. Preplanning is also a practical gesture because it allows you to make unhurried, informed decisions. Preplanning compels you to organize important documents your survivors will need later. With advance planning, you can choose a reasonable budget, and even set aside the funds over a period of time, to ease the financial burden to your family.”

“I would love to see people in their 40s be the group making these arrangements ahead of time because there are obvious savings to them by pre-planning well in advance,” states Block.  “Realistically I know that most people don’t consider these arrangements until a little later in life.  I would encourage anyone that is beginning to look toward their retirement years to make sure your funeral planning is an integral part of your estate planning.”

“Most people are financially prepared for accidents to their home and automobiles,” concludes Roewert.  “Many are even financially prepared to handle long-term illness. However, few are financially prepared for their final place of rest.”


Life changes can often come with depression, grief and a difficultly in continuing day to day life.  In these instances, it can be extremely helpful to see a skilled therapist.  “As a therapist, I help individuals process through difficult emotional issues and utilize therapeutic techniques for bringing about positive changes,” says Nanette Gingery with Summit Care and Wellness.  “Together we examine thought patterns and behaviors which can lead to positive change.  As a life coach, I also collaborate with clients to help them identify their intentions and purpose.  By shifting their focus and energy toward these areas, clients are able to achieve their goals.”

“When going through an unplanned negative life change, it’s important to give yourself permission to experience the emotion that goes along with the experience without judging yourself,” adds Gingery.  “Give yourself time to adjust and engage with your support system whether you ‘feel’ like it or not.  Don’t try to go through it alone.  Seek professional help, if only for a brief time.  A professional can help you process through difficult emotions and help you develop new ways of thinking which will bring about healing and change.  And remember, healing takes time and you will feel better.”

Unplanned life changes are often difficult to get through and can throw our entire lives into disarray.  However, by working with the proper professionals, either before an event occurs or after it has taken place, you can do your best to ease the transition back to a normal way of life.