I have an extended-family member who lives alone. He’s 69-years old, retired and socially isolated. He can occasionally be seen walking to the local store to buy groceries, but outside of that, there isn’t enough activity to be noted. He doesn’t leave his apartment often enough that neighboring tenants would notice his presence and/or absence. The family doesn’t go to visit regularly, because he prefers it that way. There is regular communication via phone and text messages, and the questions are always asked, “how are you?” The response is always “I’m fine, how are you?”
Months pass with the same phone conversations, he has no visitors. The day finally comes when I go to knock on the door, and nobody comes to answer it. I turn the door knob and the door is unlocked, so I walk in. What I find is shocking! The living conditions were absolutely horrific and unhealthy. What I found was a loved-one whose health had rendered him completely immobile. He’s trapped in a bed without food, for as long as 21 days.
I don’t even have words to describe what I felt at that moment. So many things ran through my head… who do I call and what do I do next, what happens after that, not to mention the most pressing question, “how did this get so bad?”
There were no estate planning tools in place and no one named in case of incapacity. Obviously, I got done what needed to be done, because I knew what resources were available in the community. But I only knew because of my experience in the estate planning industry for the past 24 years.
Having this personal experience inspired me to share just a few things that occurred to me:
- When we hold public and private seminars for our friends and neighbors in our community, we are really educating the general public on the estate planning tools that need to be in place so that in a similar crisis, everything works much easier for people we love. It’s so important to really paint the picture in a way that equips those attending to leave understanding things they were previously confused about or simply didn’t know.
- When we meet during our “Lunch and Learns” with other professionals, we can spread what we know to others who work closely with the people who need to know what their options are.
- When we offer Continuing Education sessions to others, we are creating a network of individuals that can ramp up a powerful resource that can be shared across the board. I’m not a lawyer so I didn’t benefit from CE credits, but just like me, your staff can learn to take what you teach and help people they know.
- When we answer the phone and someone is asking a question, and your staff takes the time out of their busy day to provide them with some information, pointing them in a direction that leads them where they need to be in their present state… we are having an impact.
We do what we do in estate planning not just because people need estate planning tools, and we need to make money at it, but we do it because we have a genuine love for people and their well-being. I, for one, am proud of our shared profession and the opportunity we have to help and serve others. Make sure your team is equipped with the passion and the knowledge about resources available to make the difference they need and want to make on their own.
And finally, I challenge us all to listen to things NOT being said. Slow down, take the time to care a little more deeply than we already do. Share some of the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years with those who need it most. Become a resource for families who simply don’t know what you know.
CounselPro7 Queen Bee
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128