Case study: planning after diagnosis

Sadly, it happened again. A client passing away without a plan in place. Well, almost. Thanks to my amazing team, we were able to help just in time.

A sad part of my job is that people sometimes come to see me when they’ve received a difficult diagnosis. People often ignore estate planning because it forces them to confront their own mortality, which is not a pleasant thing. It’s much easier to put it on the back burner, and get to it “someday” (really meaning “never”).

When someone comes to see us after hearing a terminal or otherwise difficult medical diagnosis, they are contemplating their own mortality because they have no choice. It’s unpleasant, difficult, and can really be depressing, especially when someone is trying to make the most of their remaining time.

We have clients that get such a diagnosis and come to us to have their plans done. Once complete, they can put it behind them and live the rest of their lives. There’s peace of mind for having it done, and the focus can change to other things, like family, treatment, and just plain living.

For others, even in the wake of a diagnosis, it’s still too hard for them to talk about their planning. They may look at it like “giving up”. They think, “If I surrender and do my Will, it’s like I’m saying it’s ok to die.” 

I agree with the former, not the latter, but we are all entitled to our own feelings, especially if we’ve been given bad news from our doctors. The problem with the latter is that sometimes folks change their mind, and it’s just too late.

Case in point:

We had a client that was given a terrible diagnosis, with an estimate of a year left to live. It was an older client that lived a full life but still wanted more time with her grandkids. She consulted us about doing her planning, started the process, and then simply ghosted us. She just wasn’t ready.

In the meantime, her one-year diagnosis was changed to one month. Still, several weeks after coming to see us, she wasn’t ready to finish the process. I do not pass judgment here. Everyone has to deal with this in their own way. It can certainly be overwhelming, to the point where thinking about estate planning is just more weight-packed on top of an already heavy load. I look at it like this: the planning being done really lightens that load.

A few days after the one-month diagnosis, it changed again to “maybe two weeks”.  A few days after that, we got the call from a relative that the client wasn’t likely to last the day, and now she wanted to finish her planning before she passed.

Even worse, this call came on a day where had a Medicaid hearing, so I wasn’t even at the office. There was no way I could leave the hearing to draft this client’s plan. She’d had weeks to do it and sadly waited until time was running out, before making the decision to ease the transition of her assets for her loved ones. But the simple fact is that no matter what lawyer you call, very few can stop everything and work on your case without any notice whatsoever. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Asking any lawyer to do something the same day, especially a comprehensive estate plan, is not reasonable. Most lawyers simply can’t accommodate a request like that. And to boot, I was out of the office for the day, dealing with a hearing that required my 100% concentration.

Luckily, I was able to pass this on to my incredible team. They stepped up, and were able to complete the documents the same day, and witness the client sign them that day as well. All without me being in the office. The client did pass away two days later. But because she signed her documents, the transition of her assets to her child will be straightforward.

As sad as the situation was, it was a testament to my team that they were able to get this done and reminded me how truly special the members of my staff are. They go above and beyond, whether I’m there or not. 

It is said that “True character is shown by your actions when nobody is watching”. Even though I wasn’t there, and my team could have simply said that it wasn’t possible, they instead rose to the occasion and made this client’s last moments a little easier. That’s what we do.

Don't end up in the same situation as this client. Make sure to get your planning done before getting a diagnosis, it will help not only you but also your loved ones. To schedule, a Strategic Planning Session with myself or Amanda, visit BookMyPlanningSession.com or call our firm at 978-657-7437.

We can help you get a plan in place before it's too late.

Michael Monteforte, Jr.
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People come to me in trying times and when I tell them I can help them, the weight falls off their shoulders.