Lessons from Losing Pat

Benjamin Haas |

I'm sad as I write this article. A very close client of mine passed away on Sunday. I got to meet Pat 10 years ago but really got to know Pat after her husband had passed away 9 years ago. She had never balanced a checkbook at that point in her life. She had no idea what investments she had, or where she held them. She had no idea if she was poor or rich before we worked through it all. We spent a lot of time together. We became friends.

I’d see Pat once a month, at first to educate and make sure she was on top of bills and to help fill out any necessary financial forms. But she followed in her late husband’s footsteps pretty quickly and became extremely organized and efficient without me needing to be there as often. I still saw her monthly. Just to talk. Hear her stories about growing up. Be an ear as she struggled to find happiness again and as she continued to care for her disabled adult child. Life wasn’t easy for Pat these last couple years. But I was always amazed to leave her and think to myself “that woman is so much stronger than she knows she is.” And she was.

It’s always hard to lose someone that you’re close to. Especially at 76 years old. She was told she had lung cancer just 4 weeks ago. I’ll never forget getting that phone call from her. On what ended up being my final two times seeing her, I was able to just visit with her. I’m so grateful that we were able to spend that time together as friends, not as advisor/client.

  • Pat had already detailed her Will after her husband passed away.
  • Pat already had her beneficiary designations up to date, passing all assets to a special needs trust for her daughter, appointing adequate council to care for her daughter in her absence, with her wishes clear.
  • Pat purchased life insurance 5 years ago; a blessing now as it will add to the ability to care for her daughter for many years to come.
  • Pat had long-term care insurance which she and her husband acquired well before she met me – and it helped ease the minds of many of us in her last days, knowing that if she needed skilled care, it wasn’t going to take away from her ability to care for her daughter after she was gone.
  • Pat had her sister already listed as power of attorney, and her and I would have been able to work together to continue to pay bills and file taxes, and leave all that stress to the two of us, not Pat.

What a blessing it was to have everything in order so that Pat could focus on whatever time she had left, and her and I could focus on being together, not signing papers and panicking about what would have to happen next with her finances.

A loss is never easy. My heart hurts knowing I won’t see her again. But I’m at peace knowing she’s reunited with her loving husband in heaven, that she knows I’m going to do everything we planned for me to do to continue to support her daughter in her absence, and that I got to focus on being her friend these last few weeks, not her advisor. It’s not fun to think about the end, for any of us, 35 years old or 76. But take it from me and Pat, as proxies for you and your loved ones. Get your estate plan done, so that whatever the situation, those important plans and decisions can be made at a much less stressful and emotional time.

Rest is peace, Pat. You will surely be missed.


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