How long do you have on this Earth?
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
I slowed down my channel surfing when I came to the "T.V. Preacher programs" hoping to get a little credit in the "book up yonder" just by listening.
Last Sunday morning I was clicking around trying to find the Wimbledon Tennis Finals on my beautiful big screen television. Since the two Americans had already been sent home, I was not searching with any great sense of urgency. My beloved Wife Jane (the word "Wife" is capitalized to show my respect for the gamble she took when she said "I do"), was out of town so there was little risk that I would end up in church that morning. So I slowed down my channel surfing when I came to the "T.V. Preacher programs" hoping to get a little credit in the "book up yonder" just by listening. I heard a little Joel O'Steen and some Ernest Angely (who says the Lord loves him even though he has no neck) and landed on an "extravagantly coiffed" televangelist who was asking the question, "How long do YOU have?" With rapt attention I waited to hear his answer which he told in a little parable (story) that went this way:
"There was once a "godless" wealthy playboy who was flying his private jet to his private vacation retreat when the engine alarm bells went off in the cockpit. The pressure gage showed a dangerously high number and the godless, playboy pilot was trying to determine if he could return safely to the airport. He thought he had time to land but was holding onto the ejection lever just in case he had to parachute out of the cockpit.
"Because he had been out the night before, drinking, smoking, dancing and hanging out with girls "that do" (I guess he meant smoke, drink and dance) he was hung over and a little shaky. The jet hit some turbulence and his jittery hand that was grasping the ejection lever FLINCHED and he was blasted out into the sky. He watched as his jet continued on and THREE SECONDS later the sky burst into flames as the plane exploded. If he hadn't accidently pulled that lever he would have been incinerated in the blast!
Pausing for dramatic effect, the televangelist loudly proclaimed, "If you want to know how long you've got to "get right" with God, it can be as little as three seconds!" Then he invited us all to kneel in front of our televisions, place our hands on the screen and pray with him. Good religious programming I thought to myself and it got me thinking about "How long do we have to do our Estate Planning?" (Granted not as compelling as "getting right" with God but equally as important in the earthly realm).
It seems that most people who finally get serious about how to pass their "worldly goods", (their "earthly treasures" you might call them), are usually up in years. Sure, you hear about the occasional young couple that dies tragically with no will or guardians picked out for their little kids but mostly the really good stories are about the crusty old billionaire whose family is trying to wrangle his vast estate from the greedy little hands of his twenty- something, gold digging, supermodel fourth wife! So even the wealthiest can mess up when they don't plan well or leave it up to chance. So all us poor average folk just figure that our wife will get everything. If we've got no wife than our kids will get it so no big deal!
Well it is a big deal. If your wife gets it all, remarries and has more kids, your offspring may get cut out. If you have a second marriage where you each have kids from your prior marriages you may agree to sign wills that leave fifty percent to yours and fifty percent to hers. If you die first, and your kids ignore the widowed stepmom, she can "drop 'em like a burnt match" and leave it all to just her kids! Even if you have it all spelled out in a revocable, living trust unless the trust becomes irrevocable after the first one dies, you could travel on to glory and the husband leave it all to the cocktail waitress!
Without a Durable Power of Attorney being executed BEFORE your spouse becomes INCOMPETENT you may then be forced into a time consuming and costly guardianship proceeding before you can access the money that just has your spouse's name on the account. What about the couple that puts Junior on their bank account and he gets sued and his creditors come and grab their money! The list goes on and on. There is always a better way to do everything under the sun it seems. You just have to take your head out of the sand for a little while and get it done.
So what's the answer to the good pastor's question, "how long do we have?" Is it just three seconds? Is that what he meant?
Well I don't know but from listening to his story it seems it was mighty lucky for that playboy pilot to have a little Sunday morning "swine flu" and that "shaky hand". I guess you can say he worshipped at the "Church of the Bedside of the Morning After" and lived to tell the tale! But if you aren't a "godless playboy pilot" you need your hand on your fountain pen as you execute all your estate planning documents. Then you can go live dangerously three seconds at a time!
Joseph L. Boles, Jr. Attorney at Law
Boles Law Firm (904) 824-4278
Originally published in the St. Augustine Woman's Journal August 2017