Friday, March 27, 2020

The Educator Within: When Repeating the Past Creates Roadblocks

The Educator Within: When Repeating the Past Creates Roadblocks
By Melinda Gustafson Gervasi
March 27, 2020

Awareness hit me like a lightening blot this past Thanksgiving.  My life was upside down, literally.  We were in the middle of a kitchen remodel.  Cabinets were torn out, a sink was missing, and the crew took my old oven away.  No oven, no "traditional" Thanksgiving meal.  Yet, despite the facts in front of me I attempted to forge ahead with Thanksgiving.  The roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and of course pumpkin pie.  Up went my creative energy.  Use a crockpot for the turkey instead of the oven, buy a pie instead of baking one, etc.  And then it melted away.  I awoke on Thanksgiving morning and realized my plan to save Thanksgiving simply wasn't going to happen, nor would it be festive or enjoyable.  I set aside the template for the holiday enshrined in my mind since my earliest memories, and called good friends who are neighbors.  I took them up on their offer for our family to join theirs.  We did.  It was lovely.  It was festive.  And it was nothing like the Thanksgivings of my past.

Pumpkin pie, homemade in 2020 by my 11 year old son.

As the days grew darker and another holiday approached my mind settled on the fact that my kitchen life was a lot like that of my mother, and even that of my grandmother. Living in the Midwest and possessing the basic skills to cook, my standard M.O. was meat, veggie and a starch at the evening meal.  And holidays required hours, over several days, to prepare.  But, my mom wasn't a lawyer.  She ran a plastics machine in a factory and left everyday with the 3pm whistle.  My grandmother wasn't a lawyer, she ran a home that raised 5 children.  Neither of them balanced a legal practice while raising two children with a spouse who had an intense career as an electronics engineer.  No wonder I felt so much stress.  I was attempting to run my kitchen as though it were the 1970 or 1940s.  And so I stopped, and life improved.

This does connect with estate planning dear reader.  As I sat across the table from a client with a contorted facial expression similar to my own that past Thanksgiving, I shared the story of letting go of how my family had done things.  She too was attempting to repeat a process of her parents and grandparents, but within the area of estate planning.  Her life in 2019/20 did not resemble the life of her older relatives.  What worked for them wasn't working well for her.  So she set aside the "old ways" and embraced modern options.  Soon her tension evaporated, her mind cleared, and her plan unfolded with efficiency.

If you find yourself struggling to recreate the estate plans of your parents or grandparents I urge you to step back and ask yourself why?  Just because it worked for them then, does not mean it is a good fit for you now.

Thank you for reading.  Please remember a blog post is intended to spark thoughts and discussion; it is not legal advice nor should be it taken as legal advice.  I urge you to consult with an attorney who practices estate planning in your home state.  Be well, and thank you for reading.

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