“I’m Booked!” The Optimism of George Burns Can Help You Complete Your Estate Plan

Posted May 2021

When George Burns was approaching 100 years of age, he was asked if he ever thought about death. He replied, “How can I die? I’m booked.” Indeed, when he died in 1996 at the age of 100, he had several unfulfilled performance contracts.

Perhaps a misreading of Burns’ optimistic comments helps explain why some people procrastinate about estate planning. They fear that if they complete every estate-planning document—will, trust, power of attorney, beneficiary designations, charitable beneficiaries, records of accounts and documents, and burial instructions—it is as if they are preparing to die. So long as some things remain undone, goes the thinking, then life must be extended until those items are completed.

Of course, rationally we know that life is uncertain and that if it ends without our having all of our affairs in order, we may complicate the settlement of our estates, create problems for our loved ones, and incur unnecessary taxes. George Burns was right about the importance of future plans. They do not make us immortal, but they increase the quality and perhaps also the quantity of life. However, it would be a mistake for future plans, by default, to include what we should be doing today—especially when it comes to completing an estate plan.

Actually, completing estate plans can liberate us from the nagging awareness that we have left some important things undone and free us to focus on future dreams and aspirations. Knowing that we have made provision for the persons we love and the institutions we value—and have made prudent financial plans—we can lay aside concerns about things undone, have peace of mind, and pursue our dreams. Then estate planning will not be so much preparation for death as embracing life—as George Burns always did.

It has been said that old age is when more and more things happen for the last time and fewer and fewer things for the first time. To some extent this is true, but more new things will grace the lives of those who dare to book the future with their dreams.

Your attorney will necessarily be the primary person to be consulted when you create or update an estate plan, but you may talk to other professionals as well. We can also assist you by providing information about the various ways you might include a legacy gift to support our mission in your plan.

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