I Miss My Barber and Other Estate Planning Lessons Learned during Virginia’s Stay-at-Home Order

Written by: Carrell Blanton Ferris

Posted on: May 29, 2020

estate planning lessons

Everyday life has looked different for most of us during the past few months.  More than ever before, our interactions with the outside world have become “virtual” and “contactless,” as health and sanitation practices have suddenly become the central focus in the way we live, shop, worship, and do business.  If anyone had told us in January that in the coming months, schools across the nation would go online, masks would become a part of our daily wardrobe, and gas prices would plummet to $1.67 per gallon, we never would have believed it.  Life has certainly taken on a strange new reality.

During this time under Virginia’s Stay-at-Home Order, we’ve seen a lot of odd things, several of which relate to the importance of doing a proper Estate Plan:

  1. Don’t Forget Your Pants

I hope you had a good chuckle at the viral clip of Good Morning America’s news anchor, Will Reave, who appeared on the air live from his home last month wearing a neatly pressed shirt, a suit coat… and no pants.

According to Reave’s Twitter posts after the mortifying incident, he had been getting ready for “a post-GMA workout a little too soon,” and did not realize that his workout shorts would be visible in the camera shot. Reave reportedly thereafter decided to “rethink his morning routine,” and joked about his lousy cameraman skills.

Many of us have had funny, awkward experiences revealing the tension between the work-from-home experiment and our collective, unyielding desire to be dressed as comfortably as possible.

My husband, Philip, is a high school government and history teacher. During the past two months, he has videotaped countless lessons for his students and held numerous Google Meet classes with them in efforts to take education online. Without exception, our children (ages 6 and 3) have appeared in every single one of his videos. Our six-year-old son prefers to sleep dressed like Will Reave, so Philip can often be heard telling him to “go get dressed” when he wanders into a shot after he has just woken up.

Fortunately, forgetting to finish getting dressed is more socially acceptable at age six than in adulthood. Yet, even in the new realities of modern life, we expect people to be fully clothed in public, and it would be truly embarrassing to be caught unclothed in a social or business Zoom call.

None of us want to be caught off-guard in our lives, particularly in matters of great importance. This global pandemic has shown us the difficult reality that our health may be gone in an instant, without warning.  A comprehensive Estate Plan can empower the key people in your life to step in and help you if your health begins to fail.  It also can provide an inheritance for your beneficiaries in the best possible way given the size of your estate and your other planning goals.  The major difficulty is that you need to establish a plan while you are able to clearly communicate your wishes. Don’t be caught unprepared with something so critically important; if you need to set up a comprehensive Estate Plan or make changes to your existing plan, call our offices today to set up a meeting and discuss your needs via telephone or videoconference.

  1. Some Jobs are Best Left to the Professionals

My husband asked me to give him a haircut in mid-April, when he could no longer stand the hair starting to curl around his ears. I knew he was desperate because he keeps a neat, masculine appearance, and he actually takes his haircut pretty seriously.

We set up a chair out on the back porch and plugged in his hair clippers, and he started to tell me how he wanted me to keep it short on the sides and a bit longer on top. He picked out the correct guards and I went to work, with tufts of hair flying everywhere.

After I finished running a Size 7 over his entire head a few times, he told me that I’d need to blend the sides and the top. I had never attempted that before, but I told him I would give it a try and do my best. I also took the opportunity to remind him that I was doing him a favor and he would get what he paid for.

As I tried to run the buzzers up and pull them away from his head at just the right place, he somehow found a way to micromanage the way that I was doing it.  He then proceeded to tell me how he and his friends gave each other fades when they were in the barracks together, and described the process of blending from a Size 2 at the bottom to a 7 at the top, making sure there were no lines marking the change of blades at any point along the way.

I assured him that there would be no inspections during the Stay-at-Home Order.

My inexperienced haircuts may be good enough to get us through this time when we’re locked down at home, but I know all the members of my family (and probably many of you) are looking forward to the time when we can see barbers and hairdressers who are skilled at their craft and can make us all look good. This is because “getting by” is not the same thing as doing something well.

I routinely speak with clients whose situations are nuanced: they have a complicated family situation, or specific desires for certain assets, or a beneficiary with special needs. Perhaps they have small business interests, or money set aside in Retirement Accounts, or they are in a blended family. These are all good reasons to speak with a professional that specializes in Estate Planning, so that we can listen to your concerns, assess your situation, and recommend the best solution.  Even if your situation is not so complicated—maybe you just want a Size 7 all around—an Estate Planning Professional is aware of the pitfalls, tax issues, and domino effects that may result from taking a certain course of action. These issues may not be on the forefront of someone’s mind if lacking expertise in this area of law.  Regardless of what you need to accomplish in your Estate Plan, speaking with a knowledgeable, specialized professional is the best place to start.

  1. “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” Is More Realistic than We Thought as Children

As mentioned earlier, my husband and I have two lovely children, ages 6 and 3, and one of our tasks during the past few months has been coming up with activities for them to do in the absence of school, time with friends and family, and other outside interactions.  This led me to reflect on my own childhood, and I decided to get the kids a game I had always wanted as a child: Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

My kids love this silly game, and best of all, it requires no skill except the ability to act selfishly.

As we were playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos one evening, I was struck with the realization that the premise is actually quite realistic.  Financial hardship can come out of left field, and it is often relentless—even voracious, like those hippos attacking the marbles.  Occasionally, we work with clients who are not interested in discussing the asset protection features we can design into their Estate Plans because their family members lead quiet lives, are in strong marriages, and do not take big risks.  However, the upheaval we have experienced during the past few months has demonstrated the importance of planning with an eye on the worst-case scenario.  Sometimes financial hardship comes to regular people leading quiet, safe lives who have the misfortune to come into the proximity of someone with bad intentions.  Sometimes it comes as the result of large medical bills, or tragic bankruptcies that no one could have foreseen.

Planning with trusts can provide certain levels of creditor protection for the Trustmaker (the person establishing the trust) or the beneficiaries who receive an inheritance upon the death of a Trustmaker.  While asset protection may not traditionally be at the forefront of your Estate Planning discussion, it can and should be addressed when appropriate.  If you are curious about your options for building creditor protection for yourself or your beneficiaries, speak with an Estate Planning professional who can answer your questions and advise you of your options.

In whatever circumstances you find yourself, please know we are here to assist you with all of your Estate Planning needs.  We offer consultations by telephone or video conference, and are employing strict safety protocols to ensure that in-office appointments are as safe and brief as possible.  Please stay safe, and we look forward to helping you address all your Estate Planning needs.


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