Death is a difficult topic. It is difficult to even think about death. Unfortunately, it is even more difficult to plan for death. We always think, “I’ll deal with it later.” However, because people never expect to fall ill or pass away, if you wait, it might be too late.
When I began practicing law, I was practicing exclusively as a disability attorney. One thing that my clients would often say to me is, “I never thought this would happen to me.” Of course not. We plan for things to go well, not to go poorly. Yet, planning for the worst case scenario will make even the most terrible circumstance a little bit less terrible than not having a plan. As Benjamin Franklin has famously stated, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
I personally know how waiting to plan can be the same as planning to not have plan. My father, Jeff Jackson, was amazingly healthy for his age at 59. He rarely had any health problems, and he was not prescribed any medication. He was still going to the gym nearly every day to play basketball with athletes that were sometimes half his age. Yet, despite the fact that they should have been drastically out-competing him, they were not. This is a testament to his health. Yet, unbeknownst to anyone, he had cancer forming in his body. By the time it was detected, it was already stage four and had metastasized to his spine. He had to undergo emergency surgery, and never regained full use of his legs. Shortly after, he began chemotherapy. Yet, even after this diagnosis, he put off planning for his passing because the average life expectancy for his condition was about two years, which we all thought would leave plenty of time to get this done at a later date.
Yet, as many of my disability clients can attest, when illness strikes, it can take more than just your physical ability: it can take your mind and your energy. Although my father held a Ph.D. and was a professor at the Air Force Academy, the chemotherapy took its toll. He rarely had energy, and at times he could become mentally fatigued. By the time it became apparent that he needed to start planning, he barely had the energy or concentration levels necessary. Things progressed very quickly, and he passed away much sooner than expected.
Luckily, my family was able to scramble to prepare everything in a way that would be sufficient. We were lucky to have this little bit of time and to have access to people who have knowledge of the estate planning and probate process. It seems odd to use the word “luck” here, given how painful and unfortunate the circumstances. Yet,”luck” is the appropriate word choice because many are not so lucky to have this little bit of extra time or to have access to people who know how to navigate the process.
It is because I realize that people who are in already unfortunate circumstances do not always have this access to people who can navigate the legal process of passing away that The Law Firm of Douglas G. Jackson has decided to incorporate into its practice area the drafting of Wills, Codicils, Power of Attorneys, and Living Wills, among other estate planning documents. It is also the reason that this law firm strongly encourages people to start planning today.
Planning is not for the person who is going to execute the Will Rather, it is for those that will be left behind. When a loved one is lost, it may seem unbearable. It only becomes worse when those left behind suddenly that they must navigate a complicated legal process. Although families may be extremely loving, in scenarios like this, where emotions are already raw, sometimes, families may begin to bicker and fight over what should go to whom. It has, in some situations, torn families apart – families who were so unified before this event.
This is why it is so very important to plan for your passing as soon as possible. No one wants to leave their loved ones with a mess to clean up after they are gone. No one wants to imagine that their loved ones may begin to bicker and become estranged. Even though it is difficult to think about, early planning will give those who do it a sense of comfort for the rest of their lives because they know that they have left their families more prepared to handle what will undeniably be a horrendous event.