I am getting to the age that sometimes I look back on my life at all the twists and turns. I know all my “experiences” helped make me who I am today, and I am sure I am a better person for it. But, I really do not think I would want to go back and relive those events again.
I do not want to get into detail about my life, so let me pick on my grandmother again. She and my grandfather were married in the midst of the Depression. My grandfather was thankful that he got a job hauling crushed rock for the roadways in the Hill Country of Texas. My grandparents were thankful that they had a farm and could produce some of their own food such as eggs, pork and beef. They knew that others were not so lucky.
My grandparents always recalled their blessings. This despite the fact that my grandmother’s father was murdered when she was only 18, that she and my grandfather had two boys that were both hemophiliacs, and who died because of hemophiliac-related illnesses; that my grandfather was involved in a bad train wreck and broke his neck; and on and on and on. Along the way, my grandfather was county clerk for several terms, served as Sheriff of Hill County, Texas, became a policeman, and eventually Assistant Chief of Police in River Oaks, Texas.
I am sure that my grandparents had no idea where they ended up would have so many turns along the way.
I want to share this with you because I see this in estate planning. Years ago, when I was doing estate planning, people would come in and just tell me who they wanted to leave their property to. We would do a simple will.
Even today, I see some of that done with Legal Zoom and other online products. Also, I see it done in estate plans drafted by “big” law firms — you go through a series of questions, and they draft a set of documents for you.
What has changed? You have changed. I have changed.
How? We are living longer. We have more opinions about what we want and do not want. As an example, I know that I want my family to use every effort to keep me out of a nursing home for as long as possible. I have very definitive ideas about end of life and what is acceptable with me, and what is not acceptable to me. I have strong opinions about if I develop Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, and what I want to happen going forward.
I also know what I do not know. I do not know what is going to happen to me. I do not know what is going to happen to my family. I do not know what is going to happen to my health. I do not know what is going to happen to my finances.
But, I know that, given the right questions, I can make a plan. I also know that I need to be sure that that plan is flexible.
I would respectfully suggest to you that life is not a straight line.
Many times, particularly if I am dealing with a client that may be in some type of health crisis, I explain to that client and their family that we do not know what all is going to happen. The purpose of many elder law attorneys, is to not have a “check the box” solution. It is to be able to tell the client where to turn through the maze of growing older.
You know it used to be this: You retired, you went on Social Security, and then you died. It is just not that simple anymore. And, that is not a bad thing. We have people, obviously, well beyond 65 that are thoroughly enjoying not only life, but are an integral part of our society.
Life is not a straight line. It is not a “check the box” about what happens when I die. It is much more than that.
As I said at the beginning, I have enjoyed my journey, but I do not know that I could have faced it all if I knew what was going to happen next. Don’t you feel the same?
Randy Clinkscales is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School.