The following is an article from the August 2019 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm
In law school, I discovered my interest in estate planning early on. There were many aspects of estate planning that appealed to me and, of course, still do.
It was a way to incorporate some of my prior background and interest in economics and finance having graduated with a Bachelor of Science from M.I.T. in Economics with a minor in public policy, and having worked as a financial analyst briefly before law school.
Like many areas of the law, estate planning is an area where if you "don't know what you don't know," you can either really make a mess of things for yourself or your family, or you can miss out on huge opportunities to plan for a more secure future for yourself and your family.
Estate planning is also generally a 'happier' area of the law compared with things like personal injury lawsuits, divorce, criminal defense, or other areas. And while there may be occasional 'sadder' days when we're working with a client who has a terminal diagnosis or cognitive impairment, we still enjoy working with great people who care about protecting and providing for their loved ones.
I Kept Putting It Off
When I graduated law school, I joined a small firm that practiced law in the areas of estate planning, tax planning and business law. I was bright-eyed and eager to start my career.
For two years, I helped our clients with their estate planning and legal services. In an ironic twist, I didn't have my own estate plan. I was the proverbial cobbler with no shoes! I was young and healthy, I thought to myself. And I kept putting it off for another day.
And then I found a lump in my breast. I went in for a doctor's examination. Then scans. Then a needle biopsy. And finally, for a lumpectomy. The waiting between each appointment and for each scan and ultrasound result. Was. Nothing. But. Pure. Torture. All I could think about was my grandmother who had died of breast cancer.
To be honest, completing my first estate plan is a bit of a blur. Somewhere between finding the lump and my surgery, I took the necessary steps to complete my first estate plan—using the same generic forms and documents that we used with our clients at the firm that I worked at, because, unfortunately, that was all that I knew at the time.
It was only in the aftermath, upon further reflection, that it struck me.
I had completed my virtually fill-in-the-blank documents naming my husband, Dan, and other family members as my potential 'helpers' to make health care or financial decisions on my behalf, and I named beneficiaries for “all my worldly goods.” I then brought the documents home in a manila envelope and unceremoniously left them on the kitchen counter.
I didn’t go over the documents with Dan. I didn’t provide him with any explanation. We didn’t walk through my health care wishes. I just trusted that he would “do the right thing” if anything should go awry. And besides, what would really go wrong? I was just going in for a routine surgery. It would be fine, I told myself, because the truth was, I didn't want to face the reality that there was a possibility that it wouldn't be fine…
I was fortunate that the surgery went smoothly, but what if it hadn’t? What if the circumstances had been different? What if I had been in a car accident or been one of those people you hear about that has a heart attack or stroke at a young age? Would Dan know what to do? Who to contact? Where to get help? Did Dan really know what my wishes are? For that matter, did I even know what my wishes were???
You Deserve More Than Fill-In-The-Blank Documents
My brush with mortality provided the motivation to build Carolina Family Estate Planning as THE source for designing plans that actually work in the real-world for our clients and their families. Every day, we at CFEP help clients have the conversations my family and I should have had prior to my surgery. If you are ready for help, please give us a call at 919-443-3035.