Today is Father’s Day, which is a particularly poignant day for me and my brothers, who lost our dad in February of this year. We celebrated his life in a beautiful memorial last weekend and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. We were so lucky to have had our dad and that we got him for as long as we did. It’s been especially hard for me this weekend because the Mariners are playing the Red Sox IN SEATTLE, ON FATHER’S DAY WEEKEND, which is a series my dad would not have missed. We would have sat along the third-base line, eaten all of the food at Safeco, caught up on life and summer goings-on, sang “Louie Louie” during the seventh inning stretch, talked about 30+ years of memories at Mariners games, and just soaked it all up.
My dad was a lot of awesome things, but he was not a planner. He hated thinking about money and the best way to retire, social security, Medicare, and “all that crap”. Luckily, he was married to my stepmom, who is an absolute rockstar when it comes to planning. Even in the face of a really bad terminal diagnosis over two years ago (pancreatic cancer), he was not interested in estate planning. I have found in my practice that people fall into two camps when they’re diagnosed with a terminal disease: (1) denial; or (2) obsessive planning. My dad, as expected, fell under #1.
My stepmom and I encouraged him on several occasions to work with me to get his estate planning updated. We reminded him that it would make things much easier for us when bad things happen. And, because of what he was fighting, we knew bad things were going to happen. He would appease us and agree that it needed to be done, but it would always end with “well . . . we gotta think about that, don’t we?”
Let me tell you: the last thing you want to talk to your dad about when he has cancer is how to plan for his incapacity and death.
In February, I was planning to visit my dad for a day. Things weren’t going well. We were getting to the point where, every time I saw him, he looked different – skinnier, weaker, etc. In preparation for my visit, I prepared some updated documents for him to sign. Various versions of his power of attorney and will, etc. because I still didn’t know exactly what he wanted. My plan was to make him sign something no matter what (within the bounds of the law, of course). When I got to his house that day, he was clearly in bad shape and it made me realize that it was now or never. He signed them without argument and thanked me for getting them together.
Thank goodness they were signed. That afternoon, we took him to the ER, where he was admitted, and he died 8 days later. Though nothing was “easy” about those 8 days, the fact that we had updated powers of attorney and a health care directive did make the logistics much easier. And, after he passed, my stepmom had the necessary documents from him to make sure everything could go as smoothly as possible in his wake.
Though it has been an incredibly sad four months since his death, it has been really nice that we haven’t had to focus too much on the legal side of things so we could take care of ourselves and each other. I am very proud that I was able to get him to sign updated estate planning documents that reflected his desires and made things as easy as possible for us. This is exactly what he would have wanted.
My legal advice is to get a good estate plan in place or update an old one. My personal advice is to talk to your parents today (or, maybe tomorrow, when it’s not Father’s Day) and tell them how important it is to get their plan updated. From personal experience, I can tell you that talking to your parents about this stuff before a bad diagnosis is much easier than talking to them about it afterward. And, because not everyone has an estate planning lawyer in their family who can bring documents and a notary stamp to them in an emergency, it is important to do these things with some forethought.
I wish all of the fathers out there a wonderful Father’s Day. We are all so fortunate to have these wonderful men in our lives. My kids and I are heading out to watch my husband compete in a triathlon with a group of his buddies and then we’re going to enjoy the beautiful Northwest weather with a BBQ in the backyard, with family. Also, best news of the weekend: the Mariners are 2-0 against the Red Sox with another sold out game on tap for today. Go M’s!