By J.C. Bailey

A grieving family is learning what it means to be a survivor in the aftermath of the death of a loved one, and they are amazed at how complicated this new phase of their lives can be. Disability strikes down someone close to you, and all the familial roles have to be reconfigured. This isn’t an elaborate reality show. This is your new reality.


The first challenge is that survivors live in a terrible learning environment. Whether you are exhausted from serving as a long-term caregiver or you became a survivor in a single tragic moment, you are in no shape to learn new information. You may be in shock. Your emotions may be conspiring to ambush you. Your relationship with your loved one, your personality, life experience and current circumstances are only a few of the factors that influence how you will navigate this new reality. You do not need the well meaning “legal” advice of friends or family. You need to seek wise counsel. A good probate attorney will have experience helping you understand what needs to be done in this difficult time.


A second challenge to the survivor is that they may have never established a relationship with an experienced attorney. It is much easier to survive the advice of amateurs if you can lean on a good professional. The size of the estate has nothing to do with the advantages of meeting with a trusted advisor following the loss or disability of a loved one. You can relieve yourself and your family of additional anxiety by establishing a relationship with the attorney who prepares your estate planning documents. Your lawyer should have experience in both the preparation of appropriate documents and the admission of those documents and execution of the estate plan following a disability or death. The attorney will be familiar with the documents, but more importantly, he will be able to help the family get through this with as little disruption as possible.


Lastly, complications arise because documents are missing, improperly drafted or incomplete. Some projects give us instant feedback. Changing a light bulb has the simplicity of the burned out bulb signaling that it needs to be replaced and the newly replaced bulb signaling that it is working by giving off light. Missing or improperly drafted documents never warn you that they will cause your family grief. They will appear to be fine until there is a crisis and then, when you need them to work, they don’t. Often the crisis means that our loved ones pay a substantial price for our pride and procrastination. You don’t want to make it more difficult to handle your affairs because you consulted with hobbyists instead of a professional. Good planning can assist in your family’s healing in the wake of your loss or disability. Failing to properly plan will likely add to their grief. Mr. Bailey has been sharing wise counsel with families for more than two decades. He would be honored to assist you and your family.

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