Will you be a Dodo bird or an Eagle?

Ever wonder what will be said about you at your funeral?  Lots of people, especially as they get closer to the end of their lives, think about the legacy they will leave, and hope that they will be remembered for something good.

The Dodo bird went extint hundreds of years ago, in the 1600’s.  Despite that, it has managed to be remembered to this day and most people are aware of the Dodo bird and it’s extinction.

ID-1007575 (1)Twenty years ago the American Bald Eagle was near extinction.  When people became aware of how endangered it was, there was much talk of the beauty, the symbolism, the spirit that would be lost if it became extinct.

And therein is the difference and the lesson for us: the Dodo Bird is well remembered, becuase it could not fly and became extinct.  It is famous for being extinct and not being able to fly.  The potential loss of the Eagle worried people becuase of what would be lost to us.

It has been my experience that the biggest advocates of writing a will are adult children of parents who died without one.  Family gatherings inevitably turn eventually to the mess of an estate that was left behind.

Family gatherings of individuals who left a will often include fond, touching, and funny remembrances of the deceased individual.

If you die with a will, no one will ever mention it again once the estate is settled, but if you die without one they will talk about nothing else whenever they talk about you.

Do you want to be remembered like the Dodo bird, for what you failed to do?

Or do you want to be remembered for how you lived your life?

What is a Fearless Family?

A Fearless Family understands that the future is unknown, but it does not have to be scary.

Take your average family with your average young kids.  The family probably expects their kids to grow up, get a job, have a house, a family of their own, and generally wander about in the world in a similar fashion to the parents.  The parents understand that they don’t know what kind of job their child will have, where they will live, if they will get divorced after they get married, if there will be grandkids, whether a serious auto accident will change plans drastically, whether the new tax rates will affect their child’s savings, if the child will progress steadily at their place of employment or get laid off and have to start over in a new job or line of work, and the parents do not know specifially what anything in their child’s life will look like in the future.

And yet, the parents will almost certainly send their kids to school, start a savings account for them, teach them how to talk to people, apply for jobs, hwo to treat their family members and stay in touch, cook, shop, and operate a bank account.  The parents set in place all the tools and skills they can muster to put their children in a position to handle whatever comes at them in the future.

Parents universally understand that the future is unknown.  And yet, they are seldom scared of it because they are able to equip their children with what they need to handle what comes up.

These same parents are often paralyzed by fear of the unknown, however, when it comes to their special needs children, who may not be able to navigate the world and its unknowns by themselves. For some reason, the unknown becomes scary, often debilitatingly so, when parents think about the future of their special needs child.  And so, instead of putting together the tools and skills and supports that their special child will need, they hide their head and throw up excuses for why they can’t get to it right now, all in an effort to flee from what scares them.

A Fearless Family accepts that the future is unknown.  They accept that there are tools to prepare their special needs child for the future just as there are tools to prepare their other children.  A Fearless Family accepts that while these tools are different, they are just as useful and just as necessary and that they make the future no less unknown, but a whole lot less scary.

And a Fearless Family plunges into the fear so that it can be released.

Estate planning means answering these questions

Do you know what “estate planning” is, exactly?  Basically, it is your  plan for what will happen if you die or become seriously disabled, and it should answer the following questions:

Who Will Administer Your Estate If You Die?

In other words, what person do you trust to carry out your wishes, make sure things are wrapped up properly, and that your heirs are properly taken care of?

Who Will Care For Your Minor Children And Any Adult Disabled Children?

You should name the person or people you want to raise your children and provide for their care if you and their other parent both die. If you are the guardian of yoru adult disabled child, you can also name the person you think should take over that role if you die.

Who Should Get Your Money and Things?

You should have a basic distribution plan for the things you leave behind, including money, retirement plans, your personal property, famly heirlooms . . . and only with a will can you be sure that things will go to the people you want to have them.

Who Should Manage the Money You Leave to Your Children?

You may not want the same person who is the guardian of your children to also manage their money. You can name trustees to manage anything you leave for your minor or disabled children.


Estate Planning should also include naming people to help take care of your own affairs if you become disabled.

Once all of these questions have been answered, the proper legal documents will be created so that you can be sure that your wishes are carried out.


Check out our Fearless Family Legal Documents package, designed for families that have children with disabilities.

First steps may come late . . .

. . . but for special needs parents, they are still sweet.  For some kids, the first steps never come at all, but other firsts arrive on their own unique schedule and we relish every one of them.

That said, there are steps parents should be taking as well.  I was reading a post this morning on a business blog called “51 Weeks of Pace: Leap!”   It was about a planning technique that requires you to start taking steps before you have THE PLAN, as they put it.  In otherwords, doing is sometimes more important than knowing everything first.

Ultimately, the writer, a business coach, challenged readers to ask themselves “what can I do to build my business today” and to make the answer a priority on their to do list.

It’s a challenge I give to parents – if you died today, would you have everything in place you need to give your child the best chance at a safe transition to new caregivers and the most financial security you have to offer?  

If the answer is no, then ask yourself, “what can I do today to make progress toward that goal,” and make your answer a priority on your own to do list.

If you don’t know what to do to make that progress, you can read through or listen to the resources in this blog, or give my office a call and schedule an appointment to talk about where you are, where you need to be, and how you can get there.  We help families all over the state of Texas, and we can help yours too.

Will you be remembered for a good life? Or for a messy death?

I have a friend in San Francisco who, like me, is an estate planning attorney (because, you know, attorneys all hang out together).  Unlike me, her practice focuses on elder law, so whereas my clients are mostly young parents or parents who are, shall we say, in the happy middle years of their life, her clients are very elderly.  This means that she winds up attending more than the average number of funerals and memorials.  Aside from a funeral director or the Ruth Gordon character in “Harold and Maude,” my friend has probably observed as many funerals as anyone you’ll ever meet.

So when she called me yesterday to tell me about a memorial she had attended over the weekend, it got my attention.  Every life and every service she attends is important to her, but because she attends so many, it’s not the kind of thing she usually even mentions to people who are otherwise unconnected to the family. But this time, she couldn’t wait to tell me about the service.

She said she could not remember ever leaving a funeral before feeling inspired the way she did after this one.   The joy and honor that people seemed to feel at having been part of his life overshadowed the sadness at his passing.  There seemed to be no loose ends in his life.

Ripple of waterIt got me thinking.  Most people want to matter and to know that their death will make a ripple on the pond.  The irony is that the ripple most people leave is not that of a quiet breeze blowing across the water; it’s more like the tumultuous froth caused by a drowning frog.

Imagine you are attending your own funeral.  Do you hear people quietly noting how beautiful the service is or telling a cute story about something you did?  Or do you hear tense mutterings about what will happen to your family now? Wouldn’t you rather hear your friends admiringly relate how you left everything planned out and taken care of?  Wouldn’t you like to relieve your family’s stress at one of the most stressful times of life, and wouldn’t you like to relieve the periodic stress you yourself feel whenever you remember that you need to “get around to doing a will?”

Your life can be in an inspiration, and it probably already is.  Don’t let the good life you’ve been leading be forgotten in the stress of a messy death.  Make an estate plan, a trust, and a plan.  Be Fearless.


Photo by Madison Lambeth