“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy
In his 1962 State of the Union Address, President John F. Kennedy acknowledged that the previous year began with the country “in the valley of a recession.” By the time he addressed Congress in January of 1962, however, America was “on the high road of recovery and growth.” Kennedy knew that human nature would incline Americans (and perhaps Congress) to “bask in the warmth of recovery.” He encouraged otherwise, famously proclaiming, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
America has survived a lot of dark valleys of all different sorts, many of which were worse than the recession about which Kennedy spoke. We have survived war. We have survived terror. We have survived economic collapse stemming from a variety of causes. And we have bravely overcome deadly illnesses brought by unseen enemies like the global pandemic on everyone’s minds today. A common and encouraging thread connecting many of these challenging times is the way we always seem to come out stronger on the other side of things that first seemed insurmountable.
I am very aware that when this article goes to press there will be many still weathering the COVID-19 storm. Many more, on the other hand, will begin to dare to give thanks that they appear to have made it through this global event with their health intact. Perhaps it is too soon to say we will be tempted to “bask in the warmth of recovery,” but that temptation will come. It is not too soon to be reminded of Kennedy’s warning, to get up on that roof, and to fix the holes that this unprecedented ordeal exposed.
There are some big policy lessons that our country and our state might take from recent events. But my focus is on the things over which we can each claim personal responsibility. The pandemic might have exposed a variety of types of holes in your roof, but one I’ve heard people mention the most is the pressing need to get estate planning affairs in order.
First and foremost, if after all that has happened in 2020 you still do not have power of attorney and healthcare documents in place, what are you waiting for? When properly considered and skillfully drafted, there is absolutely no downside to having these essential documents in place, but the protection they can provide to you and your family cannot be overstated. In the past, warning people, “you never know what might happen,” felt a little over the top at times. Not anymore.
It is through these documents that you give a trusted person of your own choosing (not someone chosen by a court in an emergency) the legal right to step in and handle important business, financial, and healthcare matters on your behalf when you can’t handle them yourself. To be blunt, they are not just for old people. They are essential documents for anyone over the age of 18.
A second planning gap recently exposed for many families has been the need for a living will or advance directive. It’s not fun to talk about, but it is through this document that you can legally express your wish to die naturally when nothing else can be done—to avoid machines and invasive procedures that give no hope of recovery but, instead, only prolong the inevitable.
A third hole in the roof for many families, to continue with Kennedy’s analogy, is the absence of any clear plan for managing affairs after death. Each family has different goals and different reasons for planning, but we all need a plan. The primary emphasis for some is caring for young children who may be left behind. For others, it is the need to protect the estate from the legal problems of adult children. And for many, it is simply the desire to be efficient and cost effective in the eventual transfer of assets from one generation to the next. You don’t have to be wealthy to need an estate plan. You just need a few people and a few things that you’d like to protect.
For those directly impacted by COVID-19, our hearts are with you. For those fortunate enough to be impacted only indirectly, now is the time to repair the roof. Do not wait for the next emergency to remember again what you’ve been putting off. Call today for a no-charge strategy session—by phone, online, or in person. Now more than ever, you need a plan.