Contributed by Sherri Holder, Firm Manager, Procino-Wells & Woodland, LLC
Last year at this time I wrote a piece on Women in Transition that focused on the importance of financial and estate planning. I was celebrating the last of my forties with very little trepidation about turning 50! Moreover, I was celebrating the growth and confidence that comes with maturity and experience (some might call that age). I pointed out the key to good planning is to first identify your goals and then, with the guidance of trusted advisors, understand your options.
Here’s what I didn’t say: Sometimes even when you execute on a well-made plan, things can happen that require you to revisit your goals and the strategies you put into motion to achieve them. You might even have to change course completely. This may seem frustrating, but that isn’t a reason to avoid planning in the first place.
Over the course of last year, I had one surprise after the next that challenged my resolve and upset my current financial and estate plan. In September, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I didn’t have one symptom that suggested I was sick. My screening was routine…remember I was turning 50. With that news, however, I quickly went from thinking about a long-range plan for retirement, to a short, what if I’m not here next year, plan!
Suddenly, I was making doctors’ appointments and scheduling procedures. Almost every interaction with a medical professional involved me answering the question, “Do you have a Living Will?” I confidently responded, yes, knowing my document represented exactly what I wanted in case of an emergency. I learned quickly that my diagnosis was as hard, if not harder, for the people that loved me as it was for me to comprehend. So, when my mind really wandered to the darkest outcomes of my illness, I couldn’t imagine my family having to make, then live with, the decision to prolong my life or not. For me, eliminating the risk of that burden on them is the significance of having an Advance Health Care Directive.
I know the costs of an illness can be devastating. We help families plan and protect their assets from the costs of long-term care every day. Truthfully though, I was unprepared for the magnitude of the expense of surgery, treatment, recovery, etc. Luckily, I have a Power of Attorney in place that allows my agent to pay my bills and/or take any financial and legal action on my behalf if I am unable or unavailable. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that we never know when we might be unable to do something.
In October, I had surgery to remove a section of my colon. The outcome was better than anyone first expected. Six months seems like a lifetime ago now; I constantly must remind myself that I am still healing, physically and emotionally. You see, my father passed the following month unexpectedly.
In the circle of life, it’s a wheel of fortune. That is to say that the world will keep turning and with struggle comes new perspective, even hope.
As we face the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am encouraged by hope. Too, I can do my part by being proactive, seeking knowledge, and adapting in whatever way is necessary.