A Message from Your Friendly Neighborhood Estate Lawyer

Last Updated: 13 Oct 2020
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Shortly after graduating law school, I took a job as an estate attorney. It wasn’t a particularly exciting gig, but I did learn an important lesson: the more painful it is to plan ahead, the more important it is to do so. As a species, we don’t enjoy thinking about what will happen to our families after we die or vice versa.

Plus, many people think “estate-planning” is something only the wealthy do or should do. It’s not. Of course, to a certain extent, it’s just a nice way of saying “legal tax evasion for rich people,” but there’s another side: pain evasion.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed families agonize for months over something that easily could have been resolved with a five or ten minute conversation with their now deceased loved-one. But no one wants to have these conversations, so we don’t…and we suffer for it later. For those of us living with mental illness, moreover, that suffering can be even worse.

One example: A mother leaves her estate to her son, and when she dies, the son happens to be manic. Instead of investing his inheritance wisely, he spends it all on drugs or strip clubs or bubble gum or any number of other lethal, degrading, and/or otherwise dumb, decadent items or activities.

Had mom put his inheritance into a trust to which he would only have access were he of sound mind and judgment, then she could have saved him and his remaining family a whole lot of grief.

I could present dozens of other examples here, but the message is the same: If you care for your family, plan ahead–even if it means having difficult conversations or shelling out a bit of cash for your friendly neighborhood estate lawyer.

And just to be clear, I no longer practice, so this isn’t me trying to drum up business.

About the author
Melody Moezzi, an award-winning author and visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is also an activist, attorney, and keynote speaker. Her most recent book, The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life, joins her earlier works: the critically acclaimed Haldol and Hyacinths and War on Error, which earned her a Georgia Author of the Year Award and a Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Honorable Mention. In addition to her Flight of Ideas column for bp Magazine, Moezzi’s writing has appeared in many outlets, including Ms. magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC News, the Guardian, HuffPost, Al Arabiya, and the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. She has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including CNN, BBC, NPR, PBS, PRI, and more. Moezzi is a graduate of Wesleyan University, the Emory University School of Law, and the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. She divides her time between Cambridge, MA, and Wilmington, NC, with her husband, Matthew, and their ungrateful cats, Keshmesh and Nazanin. For more information, please visit melodymoezzi.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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