In this episode, John and Lisa discuss Biblical examples they’ve seen elder law issues come into play.

Episode Transcript
Lisa
Welcome everyone to another edition of Aging Insight. I'm Lisa Shoalmire and I'm here with John Ross. John and I are elder law attorneys, and that means that we are attorneys that focus particularly on the needs of seniors and retirees, people who hope to be retiree someday, as well as folks who may have disability or caring for someone with a disability. So, there's a lot of information you need to navigate those areas of life, and so Aging Insight is here to bring you information about some of the legal issues that come up, some of the help and insurance issues that come up, long-term care and governmental benefit programs. It's just a lot of information, and we hope that you get something out of Aging Insight.
John
Yeah, Lisa and I, we give speeches all the time. In fact, one of us is speaking somewhere almost everyday of the week these days.
Lisa
I would say that, yeah.
John
And so all of the attorneys in our firm, we speak a lot because we believe in getting this information out to the public, and part of the reason is because so much of it is just unknown and it's so unknown that when we introduce ourselves as elder law attorneys, that's oftentimes the first time anybody has ever even heard of elder law. I can't tell you how, every week somebody says, "I didn't even know there was a field of elder law."
Lisa
Or they ask, "Well, you don't look elderly." [chuckle]
John
Right, yeah. Elder law is not about us, and frankly it's not a type of law. It's essentially a type of client or a type of client situation that we deal with. And people often think, they say, "Wow, this is a new field."
Lisa
Right. John, people have been getting older since there have been people.
John
That's exactly right.
Lisa
How's that? [chuckle]
John
And that has come with the same sort of issues that we deal with today. Those same issues have been dealt with for a long, long time. And we can trace some examples of how elder law and estate planning issues have been addressed all the way back to Biblical times.
Lisa
Yeah. So I think we're gonna do a little bit of a different episode today and we're gonna talk about some Biblical examples where we've seen elder law issues come into play. John, most folks might be scratching their heads thinking, "What in the world?" [chuckle]
John
Yeah. What in the world does the Bible and elder law have to do with one another? We'll start with one of my favorite stories, which relates to Isaac. And of course Issac, he was married, he had his wife, Rebecca, and then he had his two boys. His oldest boy, Esau. And Esau, he was a tough guy, he was a man's man, big kid, hairy kid, hunter. The kind of kid that a father would be proud of and of course, he was the oldest boy and that certainly held a particular position, especially in the Jewish tradition of the time. And then he had his other boy, Jacob, and he's little soft, he's a small kid, more of an intellectual, maybe a little more touchy feely. The kind of kid that a mom's gonna warm up to a whole lot, a mom like in this case, Rebecca. And so we've got Isaac, we've got Rebecca, we got their two kids.
John
And as we talked about the Jewish tradition at the time was that at some point in time Isaac... They didn't have a lot of stuff back then. They had goats, they had a farm, they had some personal possessions, but the idea was that the patriarch of the family, in this case Isaac at some point, the Jewish tradition was he would bestow his blessing, which essentially equated to a double portion of the inheritance and he would bestow that on his oldest son, Esau. Lisa, that was the Jewish tradition, that's what people did, that's what his plan was, everybody knew his plan.
Lisa
That's right.
John
This was not a secret. Everybody knew what was going on and yet did Isaac do anything?
Lisa
I think this is a story where for years and years... I think Isaac just sort of let things ride.
John
That's right.
Lisa
He has his oldest son who's healthy and virulent and always out in the field doing his thing and he has Jacob who's maybe more around the home place there and everybody knew. But Isaac said, "Well, everybody knows. I don't really have to do anything."
John
Yeah. And maybe you can relate to some of that, maybe you've put off doing some of your own planning for the future. You know what you want, you know how you want it done. You just haven't done anything.
Lisa
Yeah, you haven't taken those formal steps to take care of your estate planning. And John, so in this story we finally get to a point where Isaac is ready to take those formal steps to actually bestow that blessing, bestow the inheritance on Esau. But at this point, Isaac is very aged, elderly, whatever you wanna call it. He can't see very well. He doesn't hear very well. I would say probably at this point we would call Isaac, I'm guessing, homebound. So Isaac figures, "Well, I'm aged. I need to go ahead and formalize my blessing and my inheritance." And so he ask that, "Esau, make my favorite meal. Go out hunting, bring me the stew that I love and I'm going to bestow my blessing." And it didn't quite work out that way.
John
Yeah, no. As soon as he says that to Esau, Esau takes off running. He's gonna go follow dad's wishes but of course Rebecca, she had her ear to the door. She hears all of this and she looks over her favorite boy Jacob and she says, "Hey look now, you need to get in there and pretend like you're your brother. Because if you don't go in there and pretend like you're Esau, then you're gonna get the short end of this deal, and your dad Isaac's gonna bestow his blessing on Esau and you're gonna miss out and so you need to get in there. And you know what, your dad is so frail and vulnerable. I mean he still has his mind, but he's so frail and vulnerable we're gonna be able to trick him and Jacob looks at his mom. He's not a dumb kid. He says, "Mom, there's no way my little skinny body is going to be able to pretend like I'm that big hairy brother of mine, Esau. And she says, "No, I've already got that planned out. Got it all figured out. What we're gonna do is we're gonna wrap you up in animal fur and then we're gonna send you in there." And of course, they say he gets wrapped up in animal fur, he goes in there, pretends like he's Esau. And Isaac, he's so frail and vulnerable because of his eyesight and hearing and bedridden, all he can really do is reach out and feel that fur and of course, thinks he is talking to Esau and in fact bestows his blessing on Jacob.
Lisa
Right. And so this is a situation where someone waited so long to formalize their arrangements that it ended up not going the way that individual wanted it to go. Now, John, from a theological standpoint, we all know that obviously the blessing to Jacob was apparently part of the grand Biblical plan but it wasn't Isaac's plan. [chuckle]
John
It wasn't Isaac's plan. And so yeah, I'm taking it aside from the theological debate there. But you know the thing is, is that we have seen, in doing this for 15 or 20 years each, we have seen so many times where what a person wanted, what they stated, what they told everybody they wanted did not happen. And the reason it didn't happen is because they failed to do anything to make it happen. They, like Isaac, just let it ride. Maybe they had told people but they'd never done anything and then at some point 'cause so often people forget about this point before death. They know what they want at death or they know how they want when they're healthy and can take care of themselves. But this middle ground, this frail and vulnerable position, that's where things can go bad and you have to be able to protect yourself from others and from yourself because we've just seen so many things go wrong and again, that's been going on for a long time.
Lisa
Well, since Genesis. [chuckle]
John
Since Genesis. That's right.
Lisa
Well, alright. We will take a break and we'll come back and point out a couple of other places in the biblical text that we can see some elder law issues popping up so stick with us.
John
Welcome back to Aging Insight everybody. This is the show where you tune in to find information about what you need to know to get older and navigate through this process. And Lisa and I, we like to get on here and talk about lots of different things but today we wanted to talk about the fact that the issues that seniors and retirees experience now, these are not new.
Lisa
Well, to quote another famous biblical person, nothing's new under the sun, John. [chuckle]
John
That's correct. And so we thought we kinda show you some biblical examples and we started out with the story of Isaac and it really does illustrate the point of planning ahead. Here's a conversation that I have probably once a week or so in consultations. I have somebody come in and they're mad because their sister took daddy's watch, or so and so got this, or somehow they're unhappy with the stuff that they're receiving.
Lisa
Right. So we'll have clients come in every week complaining about the split of an inheritance or gifts from parents among their children. And you know John, it's very upsetting, these people are mad, they're angry, there's a division in the family and that people aren't talking to each other. It's a very bitter time for a lot of families.
John
Yeah, and it can be a family destroyer in all of this. And we've seen it happen many times and again just to point out that nothing here is new, at one point Jesus was presented with a question.
Lisa
That's right in the book of Luke, Jesus is among the crowd and a person in the crowd calls out to Jesus and he says, "Jesus make my brother share the inheritance with me." And... [chuckle]
John
Yeah, and again we've had people ask us this same question, "Hey, man can you make my brother share the inheritance with me?" Jesus looks back at him and he says, "Look, first of all what makes me the arbiter of your situation?" That's a family, it's a family dynamic, this is not a third party issue. But more importantly he says, "But ultimately we're talking about stuff, we're talking about mere possessions."
Lisa
Like stuff that rusts and rots and goes away.
Lisa
Yeah, some things that are quite valuable and some things that have a lot of sentimental value but at the end of the day, John, as we explain to our client, we're glad to help you figure out what you're gonna do with your stuff but our priority is helping you figure out how you're going to enjoy your life. [chuckle]
John
That's right. And then ultimately, you think back to somebody, a relative of yours that you cared about, maybe a parent that you've lost, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, somebody that you were close to that you liked and think back of your memories to them. And are those memories centered around a vase? A car? A bank account? No, they're centered around the relationship, the exchange of emotions and feelings. That's your true legacy, that's the thing that you do need to be able to pass on. Unfortunately, there's so much mixture in here between the emotional and ephemeral legacy as opposed to the tangible stuff. And so what that does is, it illustrates the point that if you want to preserve the real legacy, you do have to address some of these other things and make sure that what you want is going to happen.
Lisa
Right. Because I think when I read that section of Luke, John, I thought to myself, "Here this person in the crowd has the opportunity to put a question to Jesus and instead of asking the question of how they can be more God like or how they can improve in their stature and be more like Jesus, they squander the opportunity to find out something big and they're complaining about the brother who won't share the inheritance."
John
That's right. And of course, the person who's asking this question from the crowd, we can certainly point the finger at that person and say, "Yes, you squandered your opportunity, you're overly fixated on this one issue surrounding possessions and things like that." But you know from my experience there's somebody else in here that we could also point the finger at.
Lisa
That's right, and that would have been that parent or that father.
John
That's right because I don't know what the dynamics were with those two brothers. I know that there was a rift and so often that rift is because of something that happened by that parent. Either they failed to plan or they failed to explain their plan or somehow it got twisted in there where these two brothers, they're probably never gonna speak again.
Lisa
Right.
John
That family relationship destroyed. And it could be because of the personality of one of those brothers but it could just as easily be because of poor planning and poor understanding.
Lisa
Poor execution.
John
Poor execution by that senior before they passed. Oftentimes think of it in terms of legacy. Those two brothers, their memory of their father, because if they were receiving an inheritance at this point and time it would have come from the man. So their inheritance from their father, their memories of their dad now is completely tainted by this situation. Every time they think of their father, they're going to think of this rift that was created, and that has become his legacy in their lives, and that's probably not the kind of legacy that you wanna leave in the minds of your children. So yeah, be sure and do some planning. Learn from this, and do some more planning.
Lisa
Well, and I think we're supposed to learn from it or else it wouldn't be there in the chapter of Luke.
John
Or else it wouldn't be there.
Lisa
That's right. Well, stick around. We have one more point we'd like to raise with you about estate planning and some roots and some biblical texts, so we'll be right back.
Lisa
Well, welcome back everyone to our final segment in today's episode of Aging Insight. And today, we're doing something a little bit different, and we are looking to the Bible to show us some elder law issues that have existed. We've talked about the Old Testament and Genesis and the story of Isaac. We've talked about the New Testament and the gospel of Luke where Jesus was teaching in the crowds and a question about inheritance came up. And John, we have one more reference that I like to share with our viewers today, and that had to do with the fact that Jesus himself made an estate plan.
John
Yeah. Especially when we, when Lisa and I, go out and give presentations to the community, a lot of times somebody will... Again, there's always a joker in the crowd, and there's usually somebody that'll say, "Well, you know, I wish I had enough that I had to worry about it. I don't have enough to have to plan for it."
Lisa
Yeah, nobody's gonna fight over my stuff. There's nothing to it.
John
I don't have anything at all. Well, when you talk about Jesus' estate, what did he have?
Lisa
Well, when he was crucified on the cross, his robe and his cloak and his clothes, they were divided out. I believe the Roman soldiers...
John
That's right.
Lisa
Took dibs on his clothing.
John
That's right.
Lisa
And he had no money of his own. So at that point in time, I can't think of the more very definition of someone who had no stuff to plan about.
John
That's right, but he did still have something that was very important, and that was his mother. Mary, Jesus knew that she needed to be taken care of. He was going to be gone, and he was gonna leave behind somebody else that need to be seen after and needed to be tended to.
Lisa
And here it is, at least at this point, John. Jesus is the oldest son of Mary. This is the first child that Mary birthed, and so under Jewish law, he had very particular obligations to Mary from... And it appears that Joseph, Mary's husband, must have already been deceased. He's not mentioned. So here we are at the cross, and Mary is there watching this take place with her son, and Jesus is still concerned about his obligation to his mother even on the cross.
John
That's right, and so he looks over and he tells John, "Take care of my mother after I'm gone. I'm entrusting her care to you," and he had picked the right person.
Lisa
Sure.
John
Because he took her in where she lived with him for the remainder of her days, and John tended to her needs, but the point here is that you... Even if you have very little in the way of assets...
Lisa
Yeah, in the way of worldly things.
John
In the way of worldly things. You do have other things, and that's the people around you, the people you care about. And even if you don't have family, there are organizations, there are churches, there are non-profit organizations out there that are out there doing good work, and you can benefit these. You can benefit those people. You need to be thinking about not just the stuff you're leaving behind, but are you really protecting the people you leave behind? Are you leaving them better than what they would have been without you?
John
So often, people, they'll have a spouse and maybe they do a will that says, "I leave everything to my spouse." But what happens if when they die, the spouse that they leave behind has Alzheimer's? Have they really protected them? Have they provided for them? How are they going to manage those funds? How are they going to pay for their care now that they've lost their spouse? You've got to think about the people you leave behind, whether that's your spouse, whether that's your kids. You're not just giving them stuff. Your job here just like Jesus felt that he needed to take care of his mother and provide for her, you need to be planning for the unexpected so that you can take care of those people that you leave behind, whether those are individuals or whether that's society at large.
Lisa
So John I think a lot of these stories, they show a lot of things. Number one, we're not supposed to get so wrapped up in stuff, in our earthly possessions, in money. But as people, that's a weakness for many of us whether it's a weakness that we are insecure in our possessions, in our financial security, or whether we spend too much or don't plan appropriately with the resources we're given. So that's one lesson here is that stuff is not as important as the relationships that we have, and I think the other lesson here is planning ahead. Don't leave things to chance.
John
That's right. Don't leave them unattended, don't think that they'll just work out. It's just not how it happens.
Lisa
Not a good plan.
John
It's not a good plan. It's one thing to hope and to pray for the best things in life, and it's okay to hope and pray for those things, but you plan for the rest of it. You plan for the bad things to happen. Even the things that you don't think will happen, that you don't want to happen, if you planned for those and they don't happen, no big deal. But if they do and you've anticipated it and planned for it, then there's still no big deal. And that's the real benefit of all of this.
Lisa
I hope you've enjoyed our little look. We're attorneys, we're not theologians but we do appreciate those aspects and those glimpses even in a Biblical text of situations where elder law issues, and inheritance, and taking care of the people you love are a part of that too.
John
That's right. If you want more information you can always check out our website, it's www.aginginsight.com. You can also pick up a copy of our magazine or even tune in to the radio show. We do Aging Insight radio live every Saturday, it's on 98.7. And we also broadcast it on Facebook live on the Ross & Shoalmire Facebook page. So you can check out the radio show on your TV if you are on your phone whether you...
Lisa
On your IPad. You can watch us make radio now.
John
That's right. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the show. Stick around till next week, we'll see you then.
Lisa
Bye-bye.

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