Lessons that COVID-19 taught me about Estate Planning, life in general, being a business owner, and being a parent
Covid-19 taught me a lot about life, my business, my family, and my life’s work. Not all of the lessons were expected or easy. Some of them were hard. Some simple. Here they are, in no particular order:
Expect the unexpected.
I know it’s cliché, and obviously, that’s easier said than done. To take the advice of the renowned author and thinker, Stephen Covey, “Be Proactive”. That means that you should seek to act, instead of being acted upon. Don’t wait for the current climate to act on you – take action instead. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of my favorite books about business (and life in general). No one expected covid, and many of us (including me) were scrambling to implement things like virtual offices and off-site phone answering. Although I wasn’t ready when it happened, I do think we adapted quickly to the change. We quickly implemented video meetings, and what we call Touchless Legal Services. With touchless legal, we can complete your estate plan without ever having you step into the office.
Hug the ones you love.
Goes without saying right? But then why don’t we always do it? It shouldn’t have taken covid to teach that lesson, and I know I learned it before, but covid definitely reminded me. None of us are promised tomorrow. No matter what age we are. So, hug them and tell them you love them. Any day could be our last day.
Do NOT wait on your estate planning.
We all think we have plenty of time, but we really don’t. I had a client that hired me to file a MassHealth Long-Term Care Application for his mother, who was going into a nursing home. We filed the application, but before it could be approved, she passed away. She had no Will or other estate planning because we never got that far. Instead, we had to file her probate estate. During the probate process, I was impressed by the client that the difficulty in the process stemmed from his mother’s lack of a Will. He promised he would complete his own estate planning as soon as his mother’s probate was complete. Sadly, he never got a chance.
I came into the office on a Monday morning, in the midst of quarantine, to a message that he had passed away. He was only 50. He passed in his sleep, and never completed his own planning. I was immediately saddened because I had grown to really like this man, and we clicked right away into an easy friendship. I was also saddened for his family. He was on his second marriage but had been separated from his wife for about a year. They never got divorced and he never did his Will. His “wife” got everything, since they were legally married, and his adult children from his first marriage got nothing. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Make sure your estate planning is done. and done right. If you do not have your estate plan completed, reach out to us at 978-657-7437 to book a Strategic Planning Session. You can also book your session online at www.BookMyPlanningSession.com.
It’s ok to binge Netflix.
Especially if you’re doing it to decompress or doing it as a family. We watched Tiger King together, me, Jill, and the kids, and laughed together the whole time. We use TV shows as a subject for discussion, not as a way to avoid discussion or tune each other out. Mikey’s favorite part was Joe Exotic’s music videos. Read my thoughts on Tiger King here.
During covid, we had a lot of clients that were in nursing homes. Covid ran rampant through these places, faster than anyone could have planned. Nursing homes went on lockdown, with no visitors in or out. Well, many of these clients needed to pay bills or even move money around while being unable to leave the nursing home. The clients that had POAs and HCPs already, had no issues. Their family members could talk to banks, insurance companies, nursing home staff, and medical providers.
The clients without an HCP and a POA were completely stuck. In the less serious cases, there were bills that were late, but in more serious cases, we had to file lengthy and expensive conservatorships in court. Lots of time and money were wasted, and it all could have been avoided with two documents. If you do not have these documents, make sure to give us a call at 978-657-7437 to schedule a Strategic Planning Session. These documents are important, do not wait to get them.
Find ways to keep traditions alive.
It’s not easy, especially when the world is on lockdown. In my family, we love to travel. That’s our tradition, and it’s when we bond the most as a family. My absolute best days have been spent showing my children the world and sharing that experience with my wife. That time spent with Jill and the kids is irreplaceable. We haven’t traveled during covid, so we had to invent other times to bond and be together. We played games, binge-watched together, and even took some mini-day trips (while donning our masks). For this year, easily the weirdest year ever, we had to modify the traditions a little bit, but we managed.
I'll admit I'm not so good at this one. We had over 20 elderly clients pass away during covid. Many of them had families who thought they’d have more time to mend fences. What was almost universal is that they ALL thought that eventually, they would make up, so they held on to their grudges a little longer. But there wasn’t enough time and they missed their window.
It was nice to have no schedule for a little while.
I'm thrilled that my kids are back to their activities. Gabby is back dancing every day. Mikey’s baseball was a shortened season, but they still had a season. I'm happy for them. At the same time, it was nice that for a little while I knew we were going to eat dinner together every night. We would also hang out all weekend. I don’t think there will be another time when I’ll spend so many Friday and Saturday nights with Jill and BOTH OF MY KIDS. I enjoyed that part. We all were able to slow down a bit, stop driving to 1000 different activities, and just be together.
Adversity is a great way to learn about your team.
Nothing like a few bumps in the road to help determine who’s got the chops to stick around. At the start of quarantine, my goal was to keep all of my employees working, and not have any layoffs. It wasn’t easy, and I made sacrifices, but we accomplished that goal. The situation helped me learn about the character of my team and that they had grit, fortitude, and belief in what we do to persevere through tough times. Read about them here, but I can tell you that I wouldn’t trade my employees for anyone else. Yes, they are great at their jobs, and my management team is exemplary. We also like each other and we have fun.
Cherish the time you have.
Time is fleeting. Those dinners with my wife, just the two of us, remember what brought us together back in college. Driving the kids to practice and watching them compete in sports and activities they love is irreplaceable. My life’s greatest joy is watching my kids do what they love. I love seeing Gabby take the stage in a dance competition, her beauty and grace are on high display, but right beneath that is her determination, competitive spirit, and love for her art. It’s a time when her normally guarded emotions really shine through, sharing with the audience her joys and her pains. I relish watching Mikey strap on his catcher’s mask and crouch behind the plate and seeing that switch go off – from a funny but quiet young man to an intensely focused captain of the diamond. His eyes are intense, daring any baserunners to try and steal. “Go ahead, try it,” they say.
Giving driving lessons to your kids can be fun.
Well, maybe not fun, when you’re closing your eyes and slamming your foot down on an imaginary brake. But I got to spend hours of daddy-daughter time with Gabby, just the two of us. We talked, we bonded, and talked some more. It was totally worth all of the death-defying moments.
Value your parents and grandparents.
They could be gone in the blink of an eye. Be mindful of that. Take heed of their advice and their experience in the world. Remember that time is the only real currency, and we can never get it back. My grandfather meant a lot to me, and he was a great person to emulate. He and my grandmother lead me to my life’s work in estate planning and elder law. I never planned it, and it started as a way to try and help them. I wish I had made more time to visit them and be with them while they were still here.
If I had to sum up my covid lessons in one word, that word would be time.
Sweet time. Don’t squander it. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Live every minute of the time you have.