Earlier this year, we lost the beloved actor Robin Williams. In the wake of his passing, fans took to the Internet and social media to discuss their favorite scenes from his films and how he impacted their lives. My thoughts immediately turned to one of my favorite scenes from my favorite movie of his — Dead Poets Society.
If you haven’t seen the film — um, stop reading this blog post and go see Dead Poets Society. It’s terrific. But, if you’re not going do that, I’ll give you a little background. Williams plays John Keating, a high school English teacher at a stuffy New England prep school (at least I assume it’s New England. I’m not sure if they ever really say. I digress). Through teaching methods that are . . . unconventional to say the least, he challenges his students to think for themselves and explore who they are as individuals. I won’t spoil the rest; just go see it already.
The scene that came to mind for me was the first day of Mr. Keating’s class. He walks through the classroom whistling the 1812 Overture and promptly turns around and walks out the classroom door. As his students are looking at each other wondering what this crazy person is up to, he sticks his head back in the door and waves them out into the hallway to follow him.
Once in the hallway, he shows them pictures of former students of the school from fifty or a hundred years ago. He points out to them that everyone in the picture is young, full of life and hope and dreams. Then he says something shocking to them — all of these men are, in his words, now “fertilizing dandelions.” They all grew old and died, and his students, young and full of life as they now are, will one day die, too.
He doesn’t tell them this to be depressing or morbid. Instead, it is a call to action. The moral of the story is captured in a simple two-word mantra he teaches them — carpe diem. Seize the day! Make the most of the time you have, and make your lives extraordinary.
If there is one message I want to get across to people it is this — to seize the day. Life is brief and precious, and we are not guaranteed anything, so we should — we must — redeem every moment that we have.
What does this have to do with estate planning? Almost everyone, if you ask them, will agree that they need to have a will prepared and need to take care of their estate plan. But, for some reason, estate planning is something that we always place on the back burner. It is a classic quadrant two activity: it couldn’t be more important, but it lacks urgency, so we let it slide.
Don’t do that! Take just a little time out and seize the day — this day — and talk to a qualified attorney about your estate plan. You will be happy you did because you will be able to face whatever lies ahead knowing that you have seized the day taken care of things for you and your family.