My husband and I have been working through some of the older TV shows on Netflix for some time now – many of the shows we were too young (or not born yet) in order to enjoy when they were aired, so we are enjoying them now. We have worked our way through Leave it to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Frasier and are now on the 10th season of Cheers. Last night, while cooking dinner, I had on the 11th episode of season 10, entitled “I’m Fine, You’re Defective.” I got quite a surprise when I started hearing words of wisdom about estate planning – from Cheers of all places!
The episode features a great deal of focus on the estate planning endeavors of Frasier and Lilith Crane. The couple specifically mentions the creation of a will and a living will, as well as the distribution of their possessions. The couple presents two mentalities that we often see in estate planning – the “I don’t want to talk about death” mentality, and the logical “it will inevitably occur, so we need to be prepared.” We see both of these thought processes on a regular basis. Most of us do not want to talk about death and face the concept of our own mortality. However, I’d say that 99.9% of the population accepts the fact that death (and taxes for that matter) is inevitable and needs to be planned for.
Of course, considering that Cheers is a comedic show, the endeavor to create the documents is rather humorous. Frasier feels that Lilith is basically digging his grave and has no remorse for his potential death. Lilith, however, is simply trying to determine who would care for their child and how the assets would be distributed. While Lilith is very matter-of-fact and business-like in her approach of the matter, Frasier is flustered and emotionally distraught.
We find that the majority of people tend to shy away from topics regarding death or incapacity. I know that when my own parents have said phrases like, “if something happens to us on our trip,” or “when I die,” or “if I get Alzheimer’s.” My initial reaction is fairly common: I generally try to quickly change the topic or state, “nothing will happen, you’ll be just fine.” However, after working at MH for a number of years, my thoughts have been greatly altered on the matter. Once I learned more about estate planning and its importance, I stopped preventing those conversations, instead realizing that they are important, and that such things CAN and DO happen. In fact, there have been multiple occasions over the years where I have started these conversations myself. I have spoken to my parents about their wishes. I have spoken with my siblings and am named as the guardian for my brother’s three children if anything should happen to him and his wife. I have also had conversations with my own husband, especially about what our wishes would be if we became incapacitated. And, once we have children, we will discuss and prepare for the possibility that we may not be around to raise them to maturity.
I didn’t expect an episode of Cheers to launch me into deep thought about estate planning. In fact, a show like Cheers is generally my escape after a day of constant deep thinking about estate planning for work. However, estate planning is very important and is truly something that everyone should have in place. Even though Cheers is a comedic show, I’m grateful that they did take on a difficult topic and take the time to point out why it is so important – and they did it while making us laugh at the same time!
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