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Denial is the Worst Form of Procrastination

Emens Wolper Jacobs & Jasin Law Firm
By: Heidi R. Kemp

Denial. We all suffer from it in some form or another. Because to face every situation – the reality of every situation – right away takes a form of courage and bravery that most of do not have. I recently was having a conversation with a friend of mine and he’s been having some troubling health issues. He has sought some medical advice but there have been no answers yet. When I pushed him to not give up, his response was “But what if they tell me something bad?”. Days later I heard the same thing from someone else. And, to be honest, those were not the first times that I’d heard people imply that it was better to not know.

These conversations made me think even more about how hard it is for people to acknowledge and then talk about death. Dean Koontz once said “A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most People live in denial of Death’s patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.” I know that it is difficult for people to talk about death and can fully appreciate from where those feelings arise. And, if you do any research on the topic, it shows statistically that the majority of people do not have an estate plan in place. Of course, there are many reasons why people have not completed estate plans, but from personal experience, I can tell you denial and fear of facing the inevitable is part of that thought process for some.

Ignorance is not always bliss. Just like my friend, sometimes it is easier not knowing rather than facing the reality of a situation. But, if you have the facts at hand, you can formulate a plan. Denial may keep you from living your best life.

Another place where I’ve seen denial is in end of life planning. Of course wills and trusts are part of that – but also medical powers of attorney, financial powers of attorney, and living wills. I realize most people do not want to sit around the dinner table discussing with their family how they feel about being kept alive through artificial means and other medical decisions or how they feel about burials and funerals.

If clients have come in to see me to complete an estate plan, they’ve already crossed a very important bridge. They have acknowledged that they need to plan for the possibility of certain outcomes as well as the inevitable guarantee that all people die. But, the additional charge that I give them before they leave the office is to have conversations with each other and with their children (or whomever they have named to make medical decisions on their behalf). It may be awkward or uncomfortable but it is so critical for the Agent to know what you would have wanted. And, not only does that ensure your Agent is in tune with your wishes, but it takes some of the pressure and guilt off of the Agent. If they have a clear understanding of how you feel about these types of things, they can rest easier knowing they made the decision you would have made.

Johnnie Dent, Jr. is credited with saying “Denial exists when three beliefs intersect: 1. It cannot happen. 2. It cannot happen to you. 3. It cannot happen to you now.” Whatever situation you are facing where you find yourself in denial, know that facing it now will often produce a much better result for you and your loved ones.