Some Final Reflections From My Brother’s Death

When I began writing these weekly Family Legacy Planning posts over a year ago, I had no idea where this would lead. The feedback has been extremely rewarding. I have always loved to teach, and my plan was to give guidance based on my 44-year career as an attorney and CPA. What I discovered was that the posts where I shared personal stories elicited the most reaction. People encourage me to share my personal reflections. That shouldn’t surprise me. After all, estate planning is a deeply personal endeavor.

A few weeks ago, I opened the door into the topic of what I learned from my brother Irwin’s sudden death from pancreatic cancer. Surprisingly, I discovered I had suppressed a lot of my grief. Sharing this has been therapeutic for me. As my best friend Talmage Boston comforted me: “Some things in life are extremely hard to endure—but they deepen our character and our insights about life.” So true. At your urging, I will dive a little deeper into those insights.

Irwin’s death had a profound impact on me. As an estate planning lawyer, I was accustomed to dealing with death. However, the concept was always somewhat abstract for me. Irwin’s death made it real. In fact, I divide my law practice into two timeframes: (1) before Irwin died, and (2) after Irwin died.

More than anything I’d ever learned in school, seminars, or law practice, experiencing a loved one’s passing made me realize how much estate planning matters. I recently shared the observation that estate planning documents are not just paper. The structures and processes these documents create impact lives. By carefully crafting a plan, you can enrich lives. You can create responsible, empowered heirs and not trust babies. Such a plan fosters a powerful legacy that lives on long after you’re gone.

I’ve heard others sum up the value of estate planning in various ways:

  • My mentor Tom Rogerson of GenLegCo teaches: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
  • Planning advisor Kate Flume emphasizes: “Thoughtful estate planning trumps investment returns.”
  • My TIGER 21 chair Jack Mueller asserts: “The greatest investment return comes from doing proper estate planning.”
  • For investors fearing a bear market, the worst bear market occurs 9 months after death by unnecessarily paying a 40% estate tax that could’ve been avoided with proper planning.

As I’ve shared repeatedly in this email series, the returns from good estate planning are not only financial. In fact, financial rewards represent only one of the five capitals, summarized brilliantly by Jay Hughes in Chapter One of Complete Family Wealth: Human Capital, Intellectual Capital, Social Capital, Spiritual Capital, and Financial Capital. A thoughtful estate planning generates a legacy for your family in all five capitals.

I’ll close by once again thanking Irwin for teaching me the real value of my career, as I aim to guide clients in planning not only their estates but also their legacies. Irwin lives on in my heart. I cherish our childhood memories, like gathering discarded Christmas trees from all the neighbors’ yards to build a fort in our backyard, then dumping a mass of Christmas trees on our front curb (imagine the image as the only Jewish house in our neighborhood!) As the picture reflects, Irwin’s with me when I hike in the Rocky Mountains. He’s with me when I savor a slice of chocolate cream pie (his last enjoyable bite). He’s with us when we sit on the bench his wife Lea Ann dedicated in his memory at Airfield Falls in Fort Worth, looking out on a majestic waterfall that he and Lea Ann loved. Irwin lives on.

Here’s encouraging everyone to take a good honest look at your estate plan and imagine it in action after you’re gone. The Blum Firm would be honored to help you pass down success in all five capitals.

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin (left) and Irwin Blum hiking to Lake Haiyaha, only a few months before Irwin died. Irwin lives on in every Blum Rocky Mountain hike!