We Americans are an optimistic bunch. Despite our economic downturn, the majority of us are optimistic about our futures and being in control of our lives.
Our optimism bleeds into our personal outlook for the future. It’s why we’re not fearful to drive our cars, fly in planes or drop our children off at school. Because we fully expect to live a long, happy life, we make vacation plans a year ahead of time, and save for our retirements which can be decades away.
But hoping for the best shouldn’t keep us from preparing for the worst. An email I received recently served as a good reminder.
Illness sometimes take us by surprise
The email concerned a man (I’ll call him “Tom”), who started coughing up blood while his wife and kids were vacationing out of town for Spring Break. He went to his family physician who said he had nothing to worry about, but his symptoms continued. So after his family returned, they consulted a specialist, who diagnosed Tom with Stage 4 cancer.
Like the majority of Americans, Tom did not have any basic estate planning documents in place. So in the midst of struggling with his diagnosis and illness, Tom tried to get his affairs in order. He had a will drafted, but on the day he was going to get it signed and notarized, he went into cardiac arrest. He died two days later without having signed his Will.
The blessing of having your affairs in order
Tom’s story stands in stark contrast to an article I read a couple of years ago concerning Rob Jaffe, a man who was unexpectedly diagnosed with primary amyloidosis, a rare blood disease that took his life in just 46 days.
Fortunately, two years before his diagnosis and death, Rob visited an attorney to have an estate plan made. This allowed him to focus on himself and his family at the end of his life, rather than worrying about whether his legal affairs were in order. He asked his brother to tell his story to impress on others:
how big a blessing it is to know — when their time comes — that they have everything in order, that they don’t need to stress or worry about how things they worked their whole life for are going to turn out . . . I would not want to waste a minute of my life now having to do estate planning or worrying that I live long enough to get documents filed or whatever garbage comes with it.
Tragedy and illness can happen to any of us at any time, so it is important that we be prepared. Chances are, we’ll all live long, happy lives. But in the event of an unexpected illness, having your affairs in order will allow you to focus on yourself and your family rather than worrying about living long enough to sign your Will.