Why I Love Being an Estate Planning Attorney
Several years ago my good friend Monica’s husband died after
a long battle with lung cancer. He left
behind my friend and their four children, ranging in age from 9 to 20. It was terrible.
While Mike’s passing was imbued with small miracles and
tender mercies (and believe me-- we were grateful for every single one), still
the sense of loss, at times, was absolutely crushing for my friend. I was at a complete loss as to what to do for
her. What does one DO, exactly, for someone who has just lost one of the most
important parts of herself?
Sitting still while others around me suffer is pretty well
torturous for me. So I busied myself
doing “stuff” that I thought might be useful-- or not. It didn’t matter really. I just needed to feel like I was doing something. Picking up dry cleaning . . . ironing Mike’s
burial clothes . . . phoning the funeral home . . . bringing in brochures for
caskets . . . gluing funeral programs together. . . . If I could find something—anything-- to busy myself with, I did
Surprisingly, this “busy-ness” brought me a great deal of
satisfaction, and even peace. While the family mourned and clung to each other,
I flitted around from place to place. I
felt sort of like Harry Potter under his invisibility cloak. No one really knew what I was doing (except
occasionally for Monica). I discovered
that it felt really nice to serve the family in these unseen ways. I found that it was so gratifying to watch
at least a few things go smoothly for my suffering friend and to know that I
had played a tiny part in contributing to some sort of “peace” for her.
The work I do as an estate planning lawyer is really no
When death comes, it often leaves family members feeling
paralyzed—simply unable to cope or move forward. Even the smallest task can feel
overwhelming. Alternatively, even the
tiniest gesture of kindness or “thing gone right” can soothe a broken
heart. When I draft an estate plan, I don’t just
think of the documents I’m creating. I
think of the family I’m serving. I
recognize that the day will in fact come when those documents will be taken
from the shelf, removed from their envelope and put to use. As I contemplate that moment, I again feel a
bit like Harry Potter under his invisibility cloak. The family will not see me. But I will be there.
I will be there when they read their loved one’s last wishes
. . .
I will be there when those wishes are carried out . . .
I will be there when a tax is avoided . . .
I will be there when decisions can more easily be made . . .
I will be there bringing clarity to what might have been
uncertain, giving direction to what might have been confusing, and detail to
what might have been vague.
So as I sit at my computer, drafting a client’s will or
trust or advance directive, I think of the small moments of peace those
documents have the potential to offer.
It makes me work harder, appreciate life more, and savor this moment I
have to serve folks in small and unseen ways.
It’s kind of strange, getting satisfaction from some future, unseen
event. But somehow, as I work at my
desk, I cross that space-time-continuum again and again—and it feels very real
to me. And I find myself so happy to
have this job.