Throughout my more than thirty years of practice, there’ve been times that have illuminated my understanding as to what it feels like to be “on the other side” of my desk.

I’ve written before, for example, about my mother’s battle with leukemia, and the resulting (and surprising) difficulty when acting as my parents’ trustee during their time of need. See the preface to my book, Selecting Your Trustee, for that story.

I’ve also written about my experience when I was nearly killed by a hit and run driver while bicycling, leading to my firm’s Client Care Program that makes your health care surrogate, living will and other important directives available 24/7.

Very recently, in fact, I received another important lesson. On my 30th wedding anniversary date at age 55 I underwent a triple bypass open heart surgery. All this despite my normal weekly workouts consisting of 100+ miles bicycling, 6000 yards+ swimming and three separate one-hour circuit training sessions.

Three years ago, I even underwent a complete cardiac check-up including a nuclear stress test prior to competing in an Ironman distance triathlon race. “You have the heart of a 35 year old,” I was then told.

Luckily, I heeded warning symptoms and got to the ER before suffering a heart attack. So all of my heart tissue is fine, and my prognosis is great. I’m off work for another couple of weeks but will be back soon.

I frequently lecture others how important it is not only to have an estate plan, but to keep it up to date. There are too many individuals who consider themselves young (isn’t 55 still young?!) but who have never completed their estate plan. An equal number of individuals signed a simple will 20 years ago when their children were young but haven’t updated since.

Bad idea. The doctors tell me that I’m lucky I didn’t have a major incident from my condition before it was discovered and corrected. Apparently, God didn’t think it was my time yet. We’ve all heard of luminary figures like Jim Fixx, the marathon runner, who appeared to be in perfect health yet dropped dead from undiagnosed heart disease.

Worse, I’ve had clients come to me even after suffering a major illness or setback, only to let drafts sit on their desks for weeks or months before coming in to review and sign the documents. A new estate plan isn’t valid until it’s been properly signed and funded, even if you’ve clearly expressed your wishes to your estate planning attorney.

Know also that Florida does not generally recognize handwritten wills as valid testamentary documents, or notes written in the margins or your will or trust as valid. There are definite rules Florida law imposes upon any document that contains a testamentary (after death) disposition of assets or property.

A final thought on ignoring symptoms related to heart attacks. For weeks during my workouts I experienced short periods of tightness in my chest and/or shortness of breath. “I’m just out of shape,” I’d explain to myself or, “I’ve been traveling a lot,” were common self-justifications.

The day I finally went to the ER something completely different occurred. First, I had an incident during my morning work-out. Then, for the first time, I experienced chest tightness and pain in my left jaw while working in the office, and not exerting myself. That was the day I finally made it to the ER and discovered a life-threatening condition.

At the first sign of something odd, get it checked out.

As I said earlier, the great news is that I’m fine, recovering completely and the docs expect me to enjoy a full life expectancy. I have many more years to work and to serve my clients, which I am very much looking forward to.

Take care of yourselves and God Bless.

©2019 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.