…Was it done? …Was it up-to-date? …Where is the Will?
I remember feeling incredibly guilty on the drive there as I had not seen Jim for quite some time. That day, I was on my way to see him for a very sad reason – my presence was requested because of the experience I have in estate planning. The thought ran through my head, “I should have gone out to see him because now I’m going to talk about what happens after he dies. What a cruddy time to show up.” Hours later when I was leaving his house, I looked back at him and said, “I love you, Jim! Take care of yourself, okay?” He smiled and murmured, “Love you too, and I’ll try.”
On June 1st, a little less than a month after I visited, Jim passed away.
Of course, I did not want my last conversation with him to be about death, dying, and his Will, but it was. Thankfully, I was able to direct Jim (and a few family members) on how to arrange things so that what transpired after his death would be easy for the family. That is what Jim wanted – just to make it easy on the family. However, from my perspective, I would have rather had the conversation with him about estate plan months ago … maybe years ago and not during a time of crisis.
The best time to plan for a crisis is not while the crisis is occurring. If you fall down today, bonk your head, and think you’re Abraham Lincoln, do you think your family wants to waltz into an attorney’s office to find out what they need to do on your behalf? Probably not. Likewise, if you receive a diagnosis of dementia, cancer, you name it, do you think your family wants to waltz into an attorney’s office to find out what they need to do given the diagnosis? Again, probably not. Their focus needs to be 100% on you and your well-being; not in an attorney’s office due to an outdated estate plan or no plan at all.
I get it, though. People often put their planning (or updating their plan) on the back burner, and it is not given any priority until something happens to them or someone they love. It is because that “something” becomes an eye-opening experience that “hey, we are all getting older (in age, not spirit!) and perhaps I need to get my plan in place!” I meet with clients all the time that have come to our office for a mother, father, parents, etc. and once we get through the “crisis” planning for their loved one, they often say: “You know, I probably need to do a Will, Trust, or some type of plan too, don’t I?”
As the estate planning advocate (that is code for estate planning geek) that I am, I always answer that question with: “Yes, yes you do.” It will be easier on your kids, or your loved ones, when it is time for them to take care of you and put your plan into action.
~ Jennifer Rozelle, Law Clerk