As COVID-19 continues to dominate much of our psyche, let’s reflect on some powerful ways the pandemic has impacted estate planning. In particular, let’s ponder the impact COVID-19 is having on Family Legacy Planning.
First and foremost, COVID-19 has heightened an awareness of our mortality. Playing “the waiting game” to do estate planning has always been risky. But we are now more aware than ever how fragile health is, and how precious life is. Even the young are not insulated from this health risk. Putting off planning is even riskier now.
Second, spending more time at home has provided many of us a chance to reflect on what gives our lives meaning. Creating and passing down a family legacy has a new emphasis. I interact with many “baby boomers” like me who ponder “to what end have I created this wealth, and what impact will it have on my heirs?” Now is an ideal time to write a Legacy Letter to your family.
Third, as the circle of people we spend the most time with narrowed to those in our family, we became more attuned to our family dynamics. All families have certain sensitive issues, and the tendency is to sweep them under the rug. Ignoring these issues doesn’t make them go away. On the contrary, they tend to fester, and later (perhaps after Generation One/“G-1” is deceased) they erupt like a volcano. The time to address these issues is now, especially while G-1 is here to help serve as family “glue.”
What’s the lesson learned? Let’s engage in Family Legacy Planning, starting with holding family meetings (conducted by a professional facilitator) to (1) improve communication and trust among family members, (2) provide heirs with training so they’re prepared to inherit, and (3) preserve the family’s mission, heritage, and unique culture.
What’s another lesson of COVID-19? We have learned how to “Zoom!” Although meeting in person is preferred, it’s hard to find a time and place for a family meeting that works for everyone. It’s better to meet “Brady Bunch” style by Zoom than to keep postponing the meetings until all are available.
A recent New York Times article summed up the lessons of COVID-19 with the term “YOLO” – You Only Live Once, so stop postponing meaningful experiences. That’s true, but my dear friend Karen Reisman (www.speakforyourself.com) responds with the powerful antidote: “YODO” – You Only Die Once; you LIVE every single day, but give your loved ones the gift of being prepared for the ONE day when you’re gone. The Blum Firm is honored to help you prepare for that “YODO” day and pass down a meaningful legacy to your family.
Marvin E. Blum
Marvin Blum at his first grandson’s Bris, learning lessons from COVID-19. (Photo credit: Karen Reisman)