Let’s contrast this to what happened with Betty, a former neighbor of mine who passed away. Betty was well-to-do, as were her three siblings. She owned a diamond ring the size of a small ice cube. When one of her brothers called the facility Betty lived in during her final years asking for the whereabouts of the ring, it triggered a frenzy of accusations and attempts to obtain her various belongings.

“What the hell does he need that ring for? He’s got more money than anyone should ever need,” Betty’s sister told me.

Turns out the inquiring brother didn’t want the ring. He was merely asking out of concern it would be stolen. It took months before the others believed him, but they were all still upset at one another.

It is clear to me that a letter would not have prevented the problem. These siblings had been fighting since childhood. But a letter likely would have helped diffuse the situation and relieve some angst.

Losing a loved one is stressful, and Mr. H offered his widow an enormous stress reliever with another section of his letter. Among his books were economics, finance and investing titles. He was a do-it-yourself investor.

One of the common mistakes I see DIY retirees make—and it is almost always the husband that does this—is neglect to make a succession plan. The problem is that they have handled all or most of their household’s financial matters, and when they pass away, their widows are left unprepared and unsupported. The more egocentric the DIYer is, the more clueless the spouse tends to be.

I assure you, Mrs. H is not clueless, but she is not as “into” these matters as her husband was. Mr. H recognized this difference and explicitly stated that Mrs. H need not try to do what he did. He even suggested a reasonable and simplified approach.

I think of all the widows I have counseled over the years. Some of them felt that because their spouse did things one way, they should too. To them, the way their husband handled things must be the best way.

Others wanted to change the portfolio, but felt doing so was invalidating all their husbands had done. It struck them as a form of speaking ill of the dead.

I doubt any of the deceased DIYers wanted their investment legacy to be a confused, stressed and scared surviving spouse. Mr. H made sure that was not the case for Mrs. H.