By: Katherine S. Charapich, Esq.
Law Office of Katherine S. Charapich, Esq., PLLC
Office # 540-812-2046
Perhaps you have seen the image on Facebook of an older adult woman, sitting in a wheelchair, gazing into a full-length mirror. The woman has grey hair and wrinkles, perhaps from a lifetime of worries about family matters, relationships, and finances. The onlooker notices that the woman is hunched over, even as she sits gazing into the mirror. What resonates is that the image reflected back to the woman, is one of a forty-something year old version of the woman, as a statuesque ballerina.
As a mother of young-adults, I have been astounded at how quickly time advances. It seems like just yesterday, I was their age, and the world was at my fingertips and I was invincible. Now, I often look in the mirror, and I wonder who is looking back at me!
I wish that was the only reality of time passing quickly. As an estate planning attorney, I have encountered both adult-aged children and older adults who were confident that time was on their side, and that they could easily plan for the protection of themselves, their children, and their estates at a later date. When the planning is put off, and an unexpected life event affects one's ability to henceforth put a plan in place, the protections and intent of the adult may not be known, and therefore, cannot be honored.
It is easy to get overwhelmed at the "what-ifs," so much so that it could make one want to retreat from putting in place estate planning documents, such as a will, a trust, a power of attorney, and an advance medical directive. I know this feeling all, too well, though I know it in relation to a sporting event.
Last week, I competed in my first triathlon. Now, before that impresses anyone, it was a sprint triathlon, which means a short swim, a ten-mile bike prong, and a 5K run. I am older, with wrinkles, and certainly appeared like the novice I am, as I think I probably could have used a brown paper bag to contain my nervousness! From the time the race packets were to be picked up, it was a full four hours of waiting for the "novice group's" race time-slot. Exhausting myself with anticipation of the race about to begin, I finally sat down in a spot, far from the hustle and bustle of swimmers, bikers, and runners already going through their paces. I closed my eyes, and at first I began to think about each stage of the race and what I might encounter. I found that was making me even more nervous. I reminded myself that I had trained for this; I had planned for this day.
In fact, during my swim training, I found myself thinking about the older adult woman, who, even though she was dependent upon a wheelchair, saw herself as having the poise and agility of a ballerina. That was similar to what I felt about my profile in the water. There I was, what a sight - having not tried freestyle swimming in over forty years, wearing my neck to knee-length swim-wear, as well as my swim cap and goggles, smiling to myself as I "raced" through the water that I felt like a pro! In reality, I probably looked like someone who needed to be rescued!
However, it was this flash of truth that hit me as I had my eyes closed and was thinking about the three prongs of the triathlon in front of me. I had trained and I had planned, so I had the luxury of focusing on one prong at a time. Actually, to complete the race, it was essential for me to not get ahead of myself in my mind; I had already put the building blocks in place, the rest would take care of itself.
The same is true with estate planning. Planning ahead, putting the building blocks in place in order to protect a person and their estate through life's seasons, takes a small investment in time and monies at the forefront (followed by reviews respective to the individual needs). This truly is, " protecting the stewardship of your God-given assets."