Last year, back when things were the old normal and we had Christmas pageants and were able to gather in person, our kids were proud to sing with the children’s choir. Driving home from church, one asked: “Who is Aunt Chelsea?” I racked my brain. We don’t have any family members named Chelsea. I asked if she meant our friend Chelsea?
No. She wanted to know more about Aunt Chelsea who let Mary and Joseph stay with her that first Christmas. “You know. Gloria, in Aunt Chelsea’s Stable.” They had sung their hearts out to the hymn “Gloria” all the while thinking that Aunt Chelsea was a pretty kind person.
This year is hard. We are separated from so many loved ones. We can’t gather like we use to.
Be safe. Be healthy. Remember all the Aunt Chelsea’s in our lives.
Wishing you and your loved ones peace and happiness this Christmas. We all look forward to meeting in person in 2021.
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
Father’s day, like many holidays, can invoke strong emotion. We work with many families who have unresolved issues when a loved one dies. It can be very difficult for loved ones to find closure in these situations.
Some unresolved issues are so deep and hurtful that they cannot be resolved.
A few years ago, my father posted on Facebook that he tripped and fell while on a walk and ended up having to go to the ER. Although we were Facebook friends, we had not talked in years. He was living in Washington DC and remarried – I had only met his wife once. He had never met his grandchildren.
As I read my father’s post, I thought about the families I counseled in my law firm conference room as they struggled through the death of an estranged family member. Given that a minor fall landed him in the hospital, I worried we might not have much time left. I decided I did not want that for me and, more importantly, my children.
I reached out to him and extended an invitation. They came to Racine for a visit with us almost immediately! My kids were excited to meet them and welcomed them with open arms. Before the pandemic, they visited us here in southeast Wisconsin regularly, and we all flew out to visit them a few times.
It has been wonderful getting to know each other as adults and watching them with their grandchildren.
I know it is not always possible. But, for me, letting go of the past and accepting the present has brought me such peace and allowed me and my children to get to know two amazing people.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. And happy Father’s Day to all the dads, grandpas, and father figures out there!
has been a year of growth for the Rebecca Mason Law firm.
Early in 2019, it became clear that the firm’s workload was too high for me to be out of the office two full days each week at the Municipal Court. After I made sure that the court had transitioned from its carbon-less paper / typewriter system to a computer system, I stepped down from serving as a local judge at the end of February.
was truly honored to have the opportunity to serve our community as its Municipal
Judge. The voters put their trust in me,
and I believe I served with integrity and treated everyone who appeared in my
court fairly. It was a difficult
it was the right decision.
Refocusing all of my professional efforts on estate planning, probates, and guardianships has allowed the firm to significantly expand our client base and provide even stronger personalized customer service.
Estate planning is on nearly everyone’s to-do list. All too often it is the first item to get de-prioritized as life happens. But failing to plan can result in leaving behind a pretty big mess for your loved ones.
In 2019 we dramatically improved efficiencies in our process.
Our office keeps the momentum going when a client takes the first step of coming to the initial consultation. Our team has been able to consistently provide to estate planning clients the first draft of their estate plan within two weeks – often in just one week – of the initial consultation, and we have improved the timing of the will signings, with nearly every client signing his or her estate plan within 30 days of our initial consultation.
This year, we also had several huge successes for our guardianship clients, and we had some interesting probates involving some pretty remarkable people. I am blessed each day to have this opportunity to walk a difficult walk with people who have lost a loved one and help ease their load.
Refocusing also allowed me to spend more time with my family. I was able to coach my daughter Eleanor’s U11 soccer team. I haven’t played since college and it was incredibly fulfilling helping the girls learn and watching them fall in love with the sport. For many, it was the first time they ever played soccer. Both of my daughters also participated in Girls on the Run, which culminates with a 5K at Miller Stadium in Milwaukee. I was able to train with the girls and ran the 5K alongside Amelia. And little Cory and I have been able to spend quality time reading the Harry Potter series together.
As 2019 comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude and peace. If I had the fortune of working with you this year, thank you. If our paths did not cross this year, please know that I am here to help and hopefully we will meet in 2020!
After a night of trick or treating, our son consumes nearly all of his Halloween candy before we make it home. If it were left up to him, he would eat the entire bucket that night.
In contrast, one of our daughters will first organize her
candy into chocolate, gummy, hard candy, etc.
She will then eat just a few pieces of her candy that night and limit
herself to one piece of candy per day to make it last as long as possible.
She certainly shows a great deal of self-control.
But at what cost?
Inevitably, as the winter holidays approach, I will throw
out a large amount of her old, now stale, Halloween candy to make room for the candy
canes, peppermint kisses, and chocolate treats.
She ends up missing out on a good portion of her Halloween candy.
Now, I am not advocating eating an entire bucket of candy in
one day. But perhaps living life to its
fullest and enjoying what we have while it’s still good isn’t the worst
And given that this is now an annual occurrence, perhaps it makes sense for her to make a plan for that excess Halloween candy and give some away while it’s still fresh.
I met with a potential client at his home who was in the end stages of a terminal illness. He was living at home with his sisters providing 24-hour care. His mental capacity was slipping. He had good days and not so good days. He wanted me to draft a will that gave his estate to his sisters and their brother and to disinherit his children as they had been estranged for decades. When I came back to his home to review his will, he was having one of his not so good days and was angry with his sisters because he didn’t want to eat his lunch and they were being pretty persistent that he needed to eat. He decided that he was going to take his money, his boat, and his truck with him and not leave anything to his family. I explained that he couldn’t take it with him when he passed. He insisted he would find a way.
Needless to say, we did not execute a will that day.
He passed a little while later without ever executing a will. His estranged children will inherit
None of us know when we are going to die. But we do know that you can’t take it with you. While we are here, we can live life to its fullest. Maybe eat a few extra pieces of Halloween candy. And if we are lucky enough have something left when we die, we can have a plan in place long before we lose the capacity to do so to make sure the transfer of wealth goes smoothly and according to our wishes.
Our own Halloween Candy – Rebecca Mason Law Resources:
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
Henry David Thoreau
A little earlier this summer, we took our kids to Door County for the weekend with a group of friends. The pilgrimage to Door County seems to be a standard for many families. And this is for good reason! It is beautiful, restful, and there is some kind of magic that seems to always happen there that rejuvenates you and allows you to reconnect with your loved ones.
During this year’s trip, we took our kids — 7, 8, and 10 — cliff jumping at the Sand Dunes State Park. So we literally got in the car and drove about an hour to tell our children to jump off a cliff. It was my first time and theirs. If you’ve never been, please know: that last step right before your first jump is utterly terrifying. But the plunge into the water is exhilarating.
In my law
practice, I help people plan for their death and ensure their assets are
properly distributed to their loved ones after they pass. We walk a difficult walk alongside many. We get to know our clients and their families
as they struggle through some pretty tough times.
Given my day job,
it’s probably not surprising that as I stood at the top of the cliff before
taking my first plunge, I paused to reflect and was comforted knowing my family
would be OK because my affairs were in order.
You know, if I did not survive when I defied my mother’s advice and
actually followed my friends and jumped off that cliff.
Holding the hands of my daughters, we counted to 3. And then we jumped, continuing to hold hands as we leapt off sturdy ground and launched ourselves through the humid summer air into the frigid Lake Michigan waters. As I resurfaced to the sounds of their shrieks of laughter and pure joy, I absolutely found “my eternity in [that] moment.” We have all had those moments. And may we have many, many more.
Most people put off estate planning because we don’t want to think about or talk about our death. It does no good to live in fear of the inevitable. I was reminded of this quite clearly as I prepared to jump of that cliff. In knowing your affairs are in order truly gives you peace. I am not ready to die. I do not want to die any time soon. Yet, we can’t control when that will happen. (Although my mom would say, choosing not to jump off that cliff makes it less likely to happen that day.)
But you can make sure everything is in order so that you can be confident in taking (calculated & safe) opportunities to “live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, [and] find your eternity in each moment.”
My Facebook and Instagram feed is filled with excited posts about friends’ children’s graduations and their decisions about which colleges they will be attending.
This is certainly an exciting time of the year. So much effort has gone into preparing for this moment!
At the risk of spoiling this celebratory time, however, I recommend you consider the following before they leave your nest:
What happens if your now-adult child experiences a medical emergency?
Why should you think about your child experiencing a medical emergency before she or he heads to college? Imagine receiving a call from your child’s college roommate that your child was in an accident and rushed to the hospital. Then imagine you call the hospital and they tell you that they have no legal authority to share any information with you about your child’s condition. And you have no ability to weigh in on the medical decisions.
“The risk is real. Accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults. A quarter-million Americans between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.”
Many do not know that, in Wisconsin, once your child turns 18 you can no longer be involved in his or her medical decisions without your child’s express permission. What happens if your child is unconscious or otherwise unable to grant this permission following an accident or illness? Without planning ahead, you have to have a hearing in court to obtain a guardianship.
No person should be spending time in law offices and courtrooms while their child suffers in a hospital. You belong at your child’s side.
The resolution is easier than you think
With a Health Care Power of Attorney document, your adult child can designate you (or another adult) as his or her Health Care Agent to receive information and assist with decisions if he or she is not able to do so.
While you are considering this power of attorney, also consider discussing who your child wants to help with your child’s finances. A Power of Attorney for Finances and Property allows your child to name someone to access financial records and make decisions about your child’s financial affairs if they are unable to do so.
During these festive months before you send your child off to college, I encourage you to have a conversation with them about who they want to help them in a medical emergency. It only takes a moment. And then schedule an appointment to meet with an attorney to ensure your child is covered before he or she leaves for college.
My husband and I try to instill in our children a love for nature. This photo is of our middle daughter, Amelia, as we hiked through Johnson Park in Racine last fall. Living in such a beautiful part of the world, it’s easy to spend hours outside with loved ones. We take the kids hiking and camping whenever we have a spare moment.
Not only do we get to experience nature, but we also unplug and experience each other without interruption.
As we consider Earth Day, we are proud that our love for nature is being passed on to our children. I am also proud to extend this ethos beyond our families weekend adventures. It has become a fundamental part of my firm’s estate planning practice.
Have you considered a green burial?
We routinely ask our clients if they have considered a green burial. A “green burial” is an Eco-friendly approach to burial. Traditional burial method fills your body with a formaldehyde solution and encases your body in a casket. Caskets are often not bio degradable.
During a green burial, your body is not embalmed. You are buried in a container that is 100 percent bio degradable. Sometimes no casket at all. The body is wrapped in a cloth. Did you know you can also choose to be buried with a tree sapling? This metaphorically and actually allows your body to become the tree.
What else can be done on Earth Day?
We also found ways to cut waste by offering a “paper-lite” estate plan. With the help of newer tech and our fantastic millennial staff, we have a secure portal. The secure portal allows us to share drafts and obtain client feedback without using paper. Our clients can also securely access their estate plan from literally anywhere in the world (as long as there is internet access).
In Wisconsin, the final Estate Plan needs to be signed to comply with state law. But digitizing large portions of the estate planning process can significantly reduce the use of paper and our impact on the earth. While at the same time improving the process.
We know these efforts are not huge changes. But each small change we make adds up.
Today marks the first day of the seventh year for Rebecca Mason Law. We want to take this milestone opportunity to say thank you. Our team is honored to provide top-quality legal representation for southeastern Wisconsin and all of our clients.
My team works through some pretty tough times side by side with clients. We draft detailed estate plans, administer probates for your loved ones, work with families who have recently lost a loved one, and help you take care of your family members through guardianship’s.
Our office right here in Racine, WI has some of the most amazing clients in the world. It is our clients, who make this the best job ever. For that, we simply want to say Thank you!
I Met with a client today and we discussed the impending death of her mom. I was reminded of how fleeting life can be. And how amazing it is that I have the opportunity to walk this difficult walk with my clients. Thank you for sharing your stories about your loved ones. Thank you for sharing your tears. And being OK with being vulnerable. Thank you for sharing a little bit of yourselves with me. Because of you, this is the best job ever.