At the beginning of this year, I was out of commission dealing with a major COVID-19 ordeal. I have decided to publish this three-part blog series in order to provide actionable tips anyone can use to avoid a similar nightmare situation. For the full context of my story, you can visit the first post in this series. For new visitors, here is a glimpse into what the start of my 2021 looked like:
I initially got sick with COVID-19 and then my partner caught it from me, and he died from it. We had already completed our estate planning documents, but I still had to do plenty of scrambling. In the midst of sickness and recovery, I had to draft a trust, locate the original copies of critical documents, and try to cope with the situation as it unfolded. The situation completely blindsided me.
What this experience really drove home to me is something I already know: the importance of having your ducks in a row. Remember that my partner and I had the advantage of having already done our estate planning documents. As such, this is not totally a shoemaker’s kid story. Had we not, this story would have a different ending – I would be probating an estate and we would be doing all kinds of things in addition to grieving and trying to recover from COVID myself. This brings me to the second major lesson I learned from COVID that I believe anyone reading this can benefit from:
What I’ve learned the hard way is that when something happens, there is often no warning.
Life doesn’t give you a head start so you can get ready to handle a crisis. When a crisis hits, it is often unexpected. You have to be ready before the crisis hits. When my partner’s mother died at the end of December, they didn’t run out the next day and start instructing the broker on transferring the assets, getting the house appraised, and the like. After all, a pillar of the family had just passed away. There’s mourning. There’s sharing the stories and the grief with others. There’s taking a breath and trying to regroup after the ordeal that led up to her death. Who knew they’d only have three weeks to do everything that had to be done before her son died? He wasn’t even sick.
I always found it curious how when a client loses someone, the first person they call – after 911 - is the lawyer. Maybe they had already learned the lesson that I just learned in such a hard way. Well, maybe I didn’t just learn it. I’ve always been aware of the fact that if someone isn’t doing well, the time to go to them or take care of something for them is now. For instance, it has always been my policy that if someone calls me and needs a will for a relative on their deathbed, to drop what I’m doing and take care of it the same day, if possible.
I suppose this was a brutal reminder that when it comes to taking care of business, you should take care of matters immediately.