October 30, 2019 ELDER LAW

And When I Die*

By Donna J. Jackson, JD, LLM, CPA

On the day of my funeral, my clients are not going to care that I worked all night on April 14 to get their tax returns to them the next day. There will always be a client who’s upset over having to go hire someone else to deal with those issues! As a lawyer I put clients first, which is the professional ideal. On my death bed, I do not want to be going through my final checklist and discover that I forgot something. What did I forget?

As an elder law or estate planning lawyer, I help clients prepare for their incapacity and death by drafting documents and discussing plans for long-term care, funerals and distributions of estates and care of family members. However, as a lawyer, have I thought about myself?

Starting with the basics, every lawyer should have an estate plan that includes a will, trust, durable financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, advanced directive or living will, and HIPAA release. In addition, the lawyer needs a succession plan for their law practice that includes a lawyer to help wind down the practice. The durable financial power of attorney will need to have a power to allow the holder of power of attorney to hire another lawyer to help wind down the law practice. I revise and review my estate plan annually.

The saddest thing to face on the death bed will be regrets. Did I work so much that I did not enjoy the world and my family? Most people postpone travel and enjoyment until retirement. However, in my experience some people are not able to travel during retirement because of their own illness or illness in the family. My goal has always been to travel throughout my life. It is part of work-life balance for me. I have friends all over the world.

My final checklist is a work-in-process. I want to make sure that my family and pets are taken care of if I become incapacitated or die, I have that planned in my documents. I have picked the right person to make sure that my wishes are carried out. I have a list of professional and personal goals. As I get older, the personal goals are more important to me. I want to make sure that I maintain my connections with friends and family now.

My assignment to you is to develop your own final life checklist. It will have the normal things on it such as estate planning and funeral, but add the fun and surprises, too!

* "And When I Die" by Laura Nyro recorded by Blood, Sweat, and Tears


Donna J. Jackson is a nationally recognized lawyer, authority, speaker and educator in estate planning. Ms. Jackson is a CPA and holds a Master’s Degree (LL.M.) in Elder Law. Ms. Jackson has over 30 years of legal experience. She limits her practice to elder law, probate and estate planning.