Friday, July 6, 2012

Vacation Prep When You Are An Estate Planning Attorney

Without fail, every Spring I get calls from new clients.  What prompted them to create or update estate planning documents?  Spring break travel.  Something about getting in a car, train or plane and going far from home makes the average person think "what if I die".  Now imagine how that must feel if you are an estate planning attorney?

Last month my little family was making plans to drive 600 miles round trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin.  The place where it all began.  My husband and I wed there in 2006, and in 2011 we returned with our son and daughter.  With this years trip, plus the fact reservations have already been made for 2013, it now qualifies as an annual vacation in our home.

Hyping the long drive to my nearly 4 year old son, I was posed with this question -- "Mama, what happens if we crash the car?".  My son is very "male" when it comes to vehicle calamities.  He loves crashes, bangs, rescue vehicles, etc.  So this question was completely in character for him.  But it got me thinking about our wills.  We've had changes made for 6 weeks, but still haven't signed them. What if, what if....?

So, after a lovely anniversary dinner my husband and I walked to a nearby park and met up with friends playing volleyball.  They took a short break, and served as our witnesses.  Who says lawyers aren't romantics!  As we walked home my husband was happy to have the "unpleasant thoughts" of signing our updated papers behind us.  Or so he thought.

Once the kids were in bed, he went for a run.  Immediately upon returning I asked him for a phone number.  - Why  he responded?
-I'm writing down numbers of people who need to be contacted if we "crash the car".

A cloud of sadness shadowed his face, but I pointed out that no one would have a clue of how to contact this person if both he and I were in the ICU or worse.  And so I not only left our updated papers, but a list of phone numbers for the back-up :

  • power of attorney for finance;
  • power of attorney for health care;
  • personal representative;
  • guardian; and
  • trustee.
I also wrote the numbers down for our babysitter and pet sitter.  All were neatly organized in my smartphone.  But my husband and I are the only ones who know who these people are.  We needed to leave a trail.  So, once the numbers were found, they were also emailed to one another, and a hard copy left in a safe spot (disclosed to those who needed to know).

And that is how an estate planning attorney prepares to travel.  Not only do I update my documents, I make sure people can be found easily.  Attorneys are trained to see worse case scenario.  Some may envision a crash.  I can see the scrambling for numbers after the crash.

Thankfully we did not crash the car.  We enjoyed 4 glorious days together and are now back in our normal routine of work and family time.

Image Credit: M. Gustafson Gervasi, June 2012 - Joni's Beach, Madeline Island off the coast of Bayfield, Wisconsin

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