December 2010

Just over a year ago, I met with Tony and Samantha, a lovely young couple who were interested in setting up an estate plan.  They were engaged and had been living together for nearly seven years, although they hadn’t yet married.

“We just haven’t quite gotten around to it yet,” Samantha said with a smile, grabbing Tony’s arm and giving it a squeeze.

“After we finish training for this Triathlon,” Tony added, “We’re definitely going to set a date on the books.”

I could understand their predicament; just that morning I’d been thinking about finally writing my book—something I’ve long thought of doing—but I never seem to find the time to get it done.

I sent Tony and Samantha home with a list of items I needed them to compile for me, then we set a date a two weeks out for them to come in for their next meeting.  The week for their follow-up appointment arrived, and I got a call from Samantha saying they had not yet “done their homework.”  Samantha apologized and moved their appointment until two weeks later.  Three days before, I got another call from Samantha, as sweet as could be, asking if we could please move their follow-up appointment until after the holidays.  As Samantha and I spoke, my eyes scanned my desk and landed upon a list of outstanding items I keep written down.  I became transfixed by my list as Samantha spoke and thought of what a relief it would be if I could simply put all of those items off until after the holidays as well.  With my list on my mind, I happily rescheduled Samantha and Tony’s appointment until the end of January.  Oddly, I felt as though I’d given myself a little breathing room in doing so.

January rolled around.  This time it was Tony who called.  He said they simply had not had the time to compile the items I’d requested of them, and he asked if they could push their follow-up appointment until after triathlon season when they’d surely have more time.  I made Tony a counter offer.  I asked him when they’d be done with triathlon season and said someone from my office would call them at that point to schedule.  Tony said that was fine and we agreed that he’d get a call in September.

September came and went.  Someone from my office called Tony and Samantha a total of four times; we let them know that we only needed three small items in order to proceed.  They agreed; that wasn’t too big a task to accomplish.  Yet, we never heard back from them.  I followed up with my staff and learned that we were still waiting to hear back from Tony and Samantha, and I understood; it’s easy to get swept up in all there is to do and handle in life.  As a matter of fact I had several construction projects at home that were nagging me to get them complete before the weather turned cold.

In October Tony had a heart attack and died.  By all accounts this should not have happened; Tony was young, he was healthy, and he was in top physical condition.  And yet it did happen.  Because Tony and Samantha were not married and their home was in Tony’s name, Samantha had no ownership in the property whatsoever, despite the fact that she’s been sharing in the payments and living there for years.  Right now Samantha and I are trying to find ways to protect her interests but the prospect is not a good one.

Tony’s death struck home for me in many ways.  First I am deeply saddened that he passed and for Samantha’s immense loss.  Second I’m upset that their estate planning did not get complete; we were so close to getting it done, and having completed their estate plan would have meant an entirely different future for Samantha.  Third I am more than ever aware of how precious and tenuous life can be.  I relate to life like I have got an infinite supply of days and if I don’t choose to do something now, I’ll get to it someday.  Tony’s death brings home that someday isn’t a guarantee for any of us.

I picked up my outstanding items list, scratched out the things I don’t really care about and the things I think I “should” do, and I was left with very few items.  To that list, I added a few more items: spend more time with my loved ones, tell the people close to me how much a appreciate and love them, and take at least five minutes each day giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

I hope my sharing this story with you provides an opening for you to get in touch with what matters most, and to give up the notion of putting of those items until someday.

Joel J. Loquvam

Attorney At Law