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What is Most Important

Some of you know my story but there may be some out there that do not.  Let me summarize it.


For many years my law practice in Western Kansas was as a general practitioner, including a lot of estate planning. 


My mother and my grandmother both lived in Fort Worth, Texas. I was very close to my grandmother.  At different times in my life, she was in charge of raising me. 


In 2000, my grandmother was given a diagnosis that she would not live for more than a few months. Our plan was for my mom to take care of her. My mom lived with my grandmother; so, it was a great plan. Until it wasn’t. Two months into the “plan” my mom died unexpectedly at 67 years of age. Now I was taking care of my 87-year-old grandmother who lived 560 miles away, as well as having three boys still in my home that my wife and I were trying to raise. 


As I said, my grandmother was very important to me.  Her wishes were very important to me.  Being able to carry out those wishes was very important to me. 


My initial thought was to have my grandmother move to Kansas and move into our home.  She resisted.  I suggested independent living or even assisted living for my grandmother.  Again, she resisted. 


We tried different home health agencies. They would come and some would go. Again, my grandmother resisted. 


Over and over my grandmother and I would have the conversation: “Mamaw, I wish you could come live with me in Kansas”.  Finally, she said one day, “honey, I just want to stay in my home.  I know that one day I’ll have to go to a nursing home, but I just don’t want to know about it.” 


That conversation told me everything.  As long as she was cognitive, the most important thing my grandmother wanted was to live at home. She didn’t want to be a burden; she wanted to be independent; and she didn’t want to go to a nursing home.


It told me that everything I did needed to be toward that objective. 

When started carrying for my grandmother, I just assumed it was about the estate planning documents; I assumed it was about preserving wealth; but I was wrong.  It’s about staying independent; it’s about staying in control; it’s about staying home.


That really became a guiding principle in my office.  Once I understood that the underlying fundamental goal of most people is to stay at home, stay independent, and stay in control, we started working with our clients with that point as the beginning. 


This is one of many, many lessons I learned from my grandmother.


I hope that you’ll read next month’s article as this story progresses. 


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