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Estate PlanningPreventive Law

Responsive Decision-making: Do You React to Life Events Or Do You Respond To Them?

By February 14, 2023No Comments
Do You React to Life Events Or Do You Respond To Them?

This is a very popular time of year for people to call Brown Lawyers to make changes to their Wills and Powers of Attorney. The team at Brown Lawyers are always intrigued by what people state as the reason for making the change. Rarely is it the actual reason, but I’ve shared 9 common responses to the question “Why are you making the change?”.

Life Event

Legal Reaction

Responsive Decision-Making

My Executor is dead or too old Change Will Who would make a good Executor for me? What am I doing to build their competence?
I’ve had a falling-out with my son/sister/father. Change Will What do I want my relationship with my son/sister/father to be? If I die before reconciliation, what would I want to communicate to him/her?
I’ve recognized my brother does not share my parenting values. Change Will I need to think about who I would choose to parent my children if I couldn’t. How do I communicate my parenting philosophy to someone?
My best buddy suddenly died. Get a Will/Change Will I can die anytime.  What do I need to communicate before I die?
We’re new parents! Get a Will/Change Will I really want to be a responsible and compassionate parent and connect to my children even if I die young.  How do I do that?
My daughter is in a jam. I have given her the inheritance already. Change Will What’s going on with my daughter and how can I support her?  What do I need to communicate to all my children about what to expect?
I want my Grandchildren to remember me fondly Change Will It’s important to me that my grandchildren know what they meant to me.  How can I communicate that to them?
I’m going on vacation Get a Will/Change a Will It’s super uncomfortable getting on the plane knowing I have not demonstrated any responsibility or compassion for my family.  What can I do?
I’m 80 years old and, well, statistics say….. Get a Will/Change a Will I’m done rolling the dice, I hope I’m not too late.  What can I do?


You can see the reasons listed on the chart above. I have purposely created two columns to allow for discussion about how life events prompt us to act, and how our reactions and responses can create wildly different outcomes.

These life events and our legal reaction to them, are common and emblematic of society’s failure and culture’s negative influence on how we live the reality of our lived experiences. In my experience, people’s legal reaction becomes their only reply to the event – they communicate nothing else about how else they are dealing with the situation.

If someone in your life confronted any of the life events identified above, a caring friend would never support a friend’s experience by saying “Change your Will.”  Instead, a caring friend would try to help their friend actually deal with the life event and take control of the experience by responding with strategies aligned with their values. Changing a Will may be a prudent and necessary step in the strategy (or just the natural evolution of the plan adapting to reality) but it is not the answer to life events and does nothing to actually deal with the experience.

Responsive vs. Reactive Decision-making

If we only plan as a reaction to an external event, then we’re not really planning – we’re reacting.  We can expect miscommunication and conflict in life because the plan is disconnected from our values and actual lived experiences.  Our reactive plans only reflect our reaction to a particular life event that birthed the plan. Your reaction plan will retain the same hurt, miscommunication, anger, sadness, naiveté and ignorance that you felt when you reacted to the event in real time.

An effective solution is to practice responsive, rather than reactive, planning.  Being responsive, not reactive, requires a grounding in self; knowing “this is how I show up for myself every day – it doesn’t matter what the world throws at me, this is what I want my experience to be”. Further, it’s knowing “this is what I’m trying to do – this is what I’m trying to create with this life I’m experiencing.”

It’s a method that recognizes that life is a beautiful process, not just a series of emotional reactions – despite what CULTure has been trying to jam into our awareness. The value is realized when our plans are more aligned and in harmony with our lives and experiences. When the plans are communicated and come from inside ourselves, rather than from external sources, they lead to better outcomes.  A responsive approach is coherent and demonstrates fidelity with self, family and community.

Changing your Will is not an answer to life experiences. Of course, it needs to be done if your response dictates change, but it will be merely a tool to make sure you continue to show up for yourself and lead a legacy you want.  If you plan based on reactions, you can expect your family’s reactions to your death or illness will determine how your family deals with their life experience. If your plan is based on responsive planning and decision-making, you can expect your family to deal with the event more responsively because that’s what they’ve been trained to do.  It’s reciprocity. It’s karma.  It’s the ol’ “you get out what you put in”.  It’s the universal natural order.

What really matters is practicing responsiveness to life’s experiences, thoughts, feelings and decisions. We do that by making decisions in solidarity with our values, guided by what we’re trying to create with our lives.

Does this article resonate with you and your estate planning? We invite you connect with us and discover a proactive and preventive approach to estate planning.