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Navigating the passing of a loved one with estate planning lawyer and author Robert Kabacy | S2E9

June 07, 2022

Navigating the passing of a loved one with estate planning lawyer and author Robert Kabacy | S2E9
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In this episode: Navigating the dynamics of death, grief and loss, from brain fog to finding a sense of control. Arguing over estates and why 70% of people don't make plans for what happens after they die. Explaining the mechanics of probate with a story about picking berries. Being a stage magician and how magic helps with storytelling. What we can learn from near-death experiences. Why patience matters in law as well as in marriage. Swimming and mindfulness.

About the Guest:  Robert Kabacy has been a lawyer in the estate planning and wealth transfer industries for more than twenty-five years. He grew up in the small town of Canby, Oregon, where he was a competitive swimmer. He attended law school to pursue his passion of helping others navigate a complicated legal and tax world and has an uncanny ability to explain complicated concepts in an easy-to-understand format. About Me is a result of the passing of his mother and experiencing firsthand the difficulty of losing a loved one while navigating the mechanics that go with it. He enjoys reading, stage/parlor magic, and outdoor activities. He still swims almost daily (though no longer competitively). Learn more at robertkabacy.com.

Recorded 6 May 2022

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About the Host: Despite never letting school interfere with his education, Danu has nevertheless acquired two social science degrees and an executive MBA. He toils at the intersection of education, technology and society and has worked at various times in teaching, research, project management, business development and customer service. He has so many interests that he has started to outsource them, and his life plan is rapidly running out of alphabet.  [Danu's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danupoyner/]

Music: Kleptotonic Swing by Tri-Tachyon

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Transcript
Bob Kabacy:

Whether it's a small estate or a large estate, the actual emotions behind the disputes are pretty similar. I have seen small estates where disputes arise because so-and-so took someone's doll when they were younger and they're not going to get away with it now, and they are going to fight to the death and spend the whole estate on lawyers, just to spite the other person. In the super wealthy estates you add the emotional aspect of money. There's more to fight about.

Danu Poyner:

You're listening to the Still Curious Podcast with me, Danu Poyner. My guest today is Robert Kabacy who has been a lawyer in the estate planning and wealth transfer industries for more than 25 years. Robert has recently written a book called About Me: Information You Will Need When I've Passed, which is a result of the passing of his mother and experiencing firsthand the difficulty of losing a loved one while navigating the mechanics that go with it.

Bob Kabacy:

Here I am an estate planner allegedly prepared for death, but just experiencing this brain fog with the loss of a loved one. if I'm going through this, how are other people handling it?

Danu Poyner:

Bob is also a magician as a serious hobby. And although I was half joking when I asked him whether he ever combines magic and estate planning, I'm glad I did.

Bob Kabacy:

Magic is a lot about storytelling. we'll include it in presentations on estate planning, you talk about how estate planning can be really complicated, you tossed the Rubik's cube in the air. And as you catch it, you can say but if you're guided correctly, it doesn't have to be complicated. And as you catch the mixed up Rubik's cube, you show it completely saw as if it solved in the air.

Danu Poyner:

Although today's episode is a powerful discussion about the challenging subject of navigating the dynamics of death and grief, it's also surprisingly fun and never dull. We cover a lot of ground from how dealing with death head-on can give us a sense of control, telling a story about picking berries to explain the mechanics of probate, how the brain has to remap itself when dealing with loss and the surprising moments that can arise when people work through the book he has created.

Bob Kabacy:

Even after 25 years of marriage, we learned things about each other and she would write things down. I'm like, I didn't know you wanted that.

Danu Poyner:

We also learn about how Bob was a peacekeeper on the school playground, how swimming is good for mindfulness and why patience matters in law as well as in marriage. And Bob's answer to my usual question about gifting, a life-changing learning experience is the most unexpected I've had from any of my guests so far. Throughout the whole conversation, what strikes me most is Bob's abiding passion and care for a subject most of us would prefer not to think about.

Bob Kabacy:

The concept of death and loss and the human reaction to it. I really feel like part of my purpose is helping guide people through that because we don't have those guides in school. This is what I want to do with my life And have enjoyed it every moment, even after almost 30 years of doing that.

Danu Poyner:

I was grateful to spend some time listening to Bob's practical wisdom. I hope you will be too. It's Robert Kabacy coming up after the music on today's episode of the Still Curious Podcast. Well, hi Bob. Welcome to the podcast.

Bob Kabacy:

Thanks for having me here. I'm doing great today. It's a delight to be here.

Danu Poyner:

So you've been a lawyer in the estate planning and wealth transfer industries for more than 25 years. And you're the author of the book, "About Me: Information you will need when I've passed", you've also been a competitive swimmer and you practice stage and parlor magic. That's a fascinating mix. What would you say is the most important thing for someone to understand about what you do?

Bob Kabacy:

Well, I think there's a couple of things. Number one, I really want to help people. Whether it's in a technical manner, my legal profession or through the book, or even through a grieving process. And then in an, entertainment manner, with the magic it's helping suspend their belief for a few minutes in a very tough world and just experience things like children experience, freshly fallen snow for the first time. Just getting them out of their routine and stuff. The second thing in why I've done so much is I want to make sure that I get a full life under my belt before it's my time to go. Cause we only get one turn around at this and I want to do the best I can and experience the most I can while helping the most people that I can and during the process.

Danu Poyner:

Thank you. What a great answer. We'll come to your book in a little while, cause I think it's really interesting and it's unlike anything I've seen before but before we do that, I'd like to ask you a bit about estate planning. It's a topic we don't think about much, even though all of us will need to engage with it at some point. So the first thing I wanted to ask you is as a lawyer in estate planning and wealth transfer, what are some of the main difficulties you find your clients have?

Bob Kabacy:

I think the number one difficulty by far as procrastination. Estate planning deals with death and nobody wants to recognize that they will pass one day. I think it's a survival instinct and our ego telling us that we won't pass. The statistics tend to show that seven out of 10 people don't have any form of estate planning, which is really surprising given that there's taxes involved, sometimes probate court. So definitely procrastination. Analysis paralysis is another one. They want to collect all the data and become an expert to make the right decision. And I understand that, but estate planning is a field that requires us to consider our own mortality and apply a set of technical rules to it. So the analysis paralysis can really inhibit the planning process. One other thing that is sometimes a challenge for the clients is the cost of estate planning. Everybody wants to get a great deal and nobody wants to pay more than they need to. But estate planning's a field where you get what you pay for. In You wouldn't go to a general surgeon in order to have open heart surgery. You'd want to go through a cardiac surgeon. Choosing an expert who is familiar with the rules. You'll be able to really get the best result. Trying to do it yourself. Let me just comment about that for one moment. Estate planning is not like hanging a shower curtain because if I make a mistake and it falls down, I get embarrassed, but I would not try to change the brakes on my car, because if I do, bad things could happen if they fail. I could hurt myself or others. Estate planning, you can do a lot of damage without knowing that you're doing damage. So it's a little bit more like changing the brakes on a car, then hanging in the shower.

Danu Poyner:

It's such an interesting topic because as you say, most of us procrastinate and don't want to think about it. If we do, then we don't know where to start or we feel overwhelmed. And it's also high-impact if we get it wrong. Death and grief are not topics we're used to talking about in general. We don't learn about them in school specifically. And they're uncomfortable. Do you find that there's power in addressing those head-on?

Bob Kabacy:

Absolutely. Death is a very uncomfortable subject. What I've learned over time is that. We as human beings really share at least two things in common. Number one, we're born. And number two, we die. Being born is really a creation where death is a loss and we all fear loss. We wouldn't want to lose our cell phone. A lot of us really fear that probably more than death in these days. But death is a loss of a loved one. We don't talk about it in school. We tend to fear it and I think we do so because birth is a celebration and loss as a morning. And in either case our brains have to remap. And when they remap, they do so either in a celabratory fashion, like when the child is born or in a fashion to overcome a loss. We don't like dealing with remapping of the brain when there's grief involved. We're human beings. It is a very uncomfortable topic. By addressing it head-on I feel that we can look at it in a way that allows us to just accept it. It's going to happen. There's no doubt about that. I think one tool for addressing it. And I've heard this in a couple of, sociology podcasts is that instead of addressing in the, I am going to die, we address it in the, we are going to die, or it will happen to all of us someday. By recognizing that in that way, it's a little bit softer. It becomes a little less uncomfortable because we're part of a bigger group.

Danu Poyner:

How does it conversation with a client about estate planning usually start?

Bob Kabacy:

Well, it usually starts with the client saying, oh, I don't need that. I'm not going to die anytime soon. And I say, that's great, but tell me when you are going to die. Well, it's not any time soon. It was very unpredictable and there's a couple of professions that see more death than me, like an emergency room doctor, or a clergy person. But in terms of seeing death, I just left a meeting here today. The woman was telling me about a good friend who is 50 with seven kids ranging from, 12 years old to 24 who just had cardiac arrest and died just right away. We don't know when it's going to happen to us. I think we go back to something one of the boys Scouts said long ago, which is be prepared. And that's what estate planning is all about is getting prepared, being prepared, knowing that it's coming and not knowing when it's coming, it's better to be prepared than not because the consequences of not being prepared, can include greater costs, greater uncertainty, a longer time period for administration.

Danu Poyner:

Definitely. You're often encountering people at a difficult time. I imagine how do you balance the mechanical and the administrative side of things with that human and emotional side?

Bob Kabacy:

That is a challenge, and there are two different parts, as you've pointed out, the mechanical side of things is very rule-based. We know what a will does. We know what a trust does. We know what the tax rules are. That's all mechanics. The emotional side of things is different for everybody. We all grieve in different ways. We all plan in different way. So I have to be very attune and listen to what's important to them. And if I don't do that and I mix the mechanical with the emotional, too much, I could be criticized for basically doing my job, but people want to separate the mechanical from the emotional. They want to tell their story and solve their issue in their immediate need or insecurity. And then how it's done is the mechanical side of things. They're less concerned with, how a Q-tip election is made or what the language of the technical aspects of the trust or will is, and more concerned about, where's my stuff going, and who's going to take care of things and how are people going to get into my phone and handle all my accounts and automatic bill pays. Those are things that are the emotional tugs on us. For a lot of us, we feel guilty for not being prepared. I suppose there are some people out there who just don't care and say, I'm going to be dead and it doesn't matter to me.

Danu Poyner:

So is there sometimes emotional comfort to be had in the mechanical side and they're having a plan and a process?

Bob Kabacy:

Well, I think so in the reason is because when I guide a client through the process, we focus on the mechanical and help them understand what the options are. And by doing that, we're able to address death in a very third person manner, which is here's how a plan operates. And yes, we're talking about your death and yes, that will occur someday. It's not happening today. But if it does happen, here are the steps that our people are going to have to go through and the rules, how we save the taxes and what we do to make sure that the state is properly administered. So, absolutely I think the mechanical does help us address the death topic. But again, I'll tell you seven out of 10 people just ignore it all together and say, not going to happen today. I feel great. I don't need a will. And then next thing you know, they pass away without a will and that's where things can start going differently than you would expect.

Danu Poyner:

This is probably a good opportunity to talk about your book then, which is called About Me Information You Will Need When I've Passed. First of all, what sets you on the path of writing a book and what did you want to achieve?

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah, this is a interesting story 20 years ago. Actually a little bit longer than that, my mother approached me and said that she wanted to get her estate plan done because she had just been diagnosed with cancer and I've been doing estate planning for awhile. So I said, I'd be glad to do it. Our ethical rules authorize that. I started working through the estate stuff and I realized that there was a whole bunch of practical stuff that even though I was close with my mother, I just didn't know about certain things like who her doctor was or what medication she was on or what she wanted at a funeral. And we're really facing death head on because she says, look, I've got cancer. It's not going to be cured. And I am going to pass and you're going to be the one administering. So I got very insecure about that. Knowing that the matriarch of my family was no longer going to be here and really started questioning her and working with her on a process to write things down and ask her questions about those practical non-legal things as a companion to the estate plan that I was writing. What I didn't realize though, was the profound impact that that little three ring binder would have on me after she passed. She got worse as would be expected with cancer. And I would be visiting her daily until the very end. But every day I would still go into work before I'd come visit her. I was just waiting for the call. And one day I got the call and rushed over there and she had expired and it was very difficult, experiencing it firsthand. That's when I really became an estate planner because I had lived through a loss like that. What I didn't realize was pulling out that three ring binder in my estate plan with all the questions that I had asked her really gave me a sense of control in an uncontrolled environment. All the information I needed was right at my fingertips. I was able to work through things in an organized fashion. I was able to answer questions when asked by people I was working with to administer the estate and answering the questions quickly. It was really comforting to have, and here I am an estate planner allegedly prepared for death, but just experiencing this brain fog with the loss of a loved one. Having that book really, really helped me a lot. I thought if I'm going through this, how are other people handling it? That was why I wrote this book.

Danu Poyner:

As an estate planning lawyers, tempting to say at face value that your experience would have put you in a better position than most to handle that situation and work through that grief. But what was that like?

Bob Kabacy:

It was very, very human. I will try to explain it more the best I can. I had experienced grief through my client's eyes many, many times before that, but when it's personal and you have thick memories and you have a lot of personal interaction with the individual who is no longer there forever. They're gone forever. You really take note of that and it's emotionally overwhelming and I'm not saying my book is a magic pill that solves the grief issue, but it's something that is there to assist. And surprisingly, it gave me a sense of control. That was one thing that stood out. Second thing that stood out is it gave me the information and the memories. I still have that today. Uh, So it's been a very good tool for me, even 20 years later to come to grips with the loss of a loved one.

Danu Poyner:

You mentioned brain fog, which I thought was an interesting term. I wonder if you can describe what the experience of that is like a little more.

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah, sure. Throughout the day, I know exactly what to do. I'm trained as an estate planning lawyer, I've watched clients experience grief. I've experienced grief through the loss of a pet previously, and I understand that you cry and you feel bad and then life goes on, but I had never experienced it quite this way. And despite knowing all the rules and despite knowing what needed to be done, the brain fog set in, and I was a little bit, frankly, confused and not wanting to deal with it and a little bit depressed and going through all those stages of emotions and just understanding that it was normal. And frankly, wanting to take in as much as I could so that I could experience it as well, because if I experienced it, knowing that all my clients experience it, I could be very much more empathetic with them through the process.

Danu Poyner:

It sounds like even in that difficult moment, there was a part of you registered that this was an important thing for you to take in the experience for your role.

Bob Kabacy:

Yes. Loss is part of life. It just, it is. We lose objects. We lose family members. We lose spouses, we lose children, we lose things. It's a part of living. I wanted to feel what my clients were feeling and personally experience it, but I'll tell you it wasn't a choice. I recognized it for what it was and said, wow, this is really what they're going through. How can I help them ease the pain, ease the burden, ease the information overload and make their lives a little bit easier in the time when it's needed most. It's confused. You kinda lose sense of time. You don't care as much. I'm not a psychologist. I have a psychology degree, but I'm not a psychologist, but I just felt like my brain was having to rewire itself. And during that remapping, I was tired a lot. And it just took an immense amount of energy to get through that.

Danu Poyner:

there's something reassuringly tangible about a three ring binder in that kind of situation I imagine is that one of the reasons why you decided that a book was the right medium for this, as opposed to a document on a computer?

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah. It was. And a couple of reasons. One, remember I'm putting the three ring binder together 20 years ago and 20 years ago, we weren't living in the same world we're living in. Having the three ring binder or a book is something tangible that you hold on to. The other reason that I wanted to do a book is because. It's easy and it's accessible. You open the book up, you write in it and you put it on your shelf and somebody can take it as a tangible representation of you as opposed to an electronic screen, which frankly, we're all afraid that we'll hit the delete button accidentally, or a electromagnetic pulse will wipe out our data or we'll lose the passwords and not be able to get in to the system. So having an electronic we've stayed away from that for two reasons. One, there's a lot of personal information in the book, and I don't think that we want that available on the computer with all the hacking today and on the web with all the hacking, uh, Number two. If it's on the computer or somebody has to be able to go get on the computer, figure out the password, figuring out where to go, figure out how to open it. It's too hard. People will ignore it. Whereas if you have a book that's on the shelf that says about me, I'm going to go right to that book, open it up. And if it's all about the person, what a gift.

Danu Poyner:

That's a really nice way to think about it. I've gone through the book and I was surprised by how practical it is, and also just the physical size of it. It left me with the impression there's a lot of thought that's gone into how it will be used in practice. And you were alluding to that. I think walking into the room and finding it. Can you tell me a bit about that thought that's gone into it?

Bob Kabacy:

Sure. So as a lawyer, of course I wrote originally and sentences that were probably 150 words long with multi-syllable words. My editor said, no, no, no, this is not going to work. It might work for other lawyers, but it doesn't work for everybody else. So, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit all during COVID had it, had it, had it, had it. Yes. I was so tired of editing and simplifying and working with the editor. Trying to bring it to a point that was understandable and tangible. And that's one of the things that I've actually been praised for at the end was that it's easy to read. It's easy to follow. It's big print, which I insisted upon because so many of my clients can't read 11 or 12 point type. They need 14 or 16 point type to just get through something. So we wanted to make it simple and easy because if it's not simple and easy people, aren't going to do it. So a lot of editing, a lot of thought went into it. I wanted to make sure that when you open the book, it's a special cover design that it stays open by itself. And I also, because of the title, worked with the publisher and said, this book should not have my name on the cover. It's one of the only books where the author's name is not on the cover. In fact, I've had trouble finding another one, but it's not about me. It's about the person who owns the books. All that thought and the graphics and the colors and the paper, even the paper is a special paper heavy that doesn't bleed through. And it doesn't smear ink. All of that was thought through. And fortunately during COVID, we had a lot of time. So a lot of care went into this book. Countless hours.

Danu Poyner:

And that's, I think a better word, a lot of care, rather than a lot of thought or both really, but I think the care is important. Can you tell me a little bit about people will find in the book and how it works?

Bob Kabacy:

Sure. There's three main sections in the book. The first section is a customizable fill out section that asks you easy questions about you and all the practical non-legal staff. Again, that's a good companion with an estate plan. Like how do you get into your phone? How do you shut off bill pays? What bill pays do you have? What are your passwords? Who's your doctor? What do you want at your funeral? Who do you not want to come to your funeral and all the practical stuff that is about you? And we've been pretty comprehensive all the way down to pets and everything else. Second part of the book, which is different and there's nothing out there like it. Our chapters on how to administer an estate. What is probate? What taxes are involved, how to handle grief? What if a dispute arise? Very easy to read chapters and I'll tell ya. That was another thing that was surprising to me when my mother had passed was during the day you're busy making phone calls, waiting for return calls, filling out paperwork, doing things, but six o'clock comes around and the world shuts down and then you're alone and you're sitting there and you're like, okay, what do I do now? So having these chapters really give you a continuation of that sense of control, because you can read through them again and again, and then plan the next day and figure out what you're doing the next day. And it helps you in that off time during the night, the third part of the book is about, resources like websites, telephone numbers, and, other helpful information with glossary about terms. So if you are visiting with your estate planning lawyer, and they use words, you're not familiar with, you can look them up in the glossary. Then there's a whole number of pages in the back that are just free flow thinking. If you want to write a letter to your kids, or you want to remind somebody of something or anything you want to talk about, there's blank pages that lets you speak your mind and tell people what was really important to you.

Danu Poyner:

Do you find from your experience of how people are using the book that it's something very personal that someone would fill out by themselves in a quiet moment, or is it an occasion to get the family together and discuss it? I'm really curious about how people are using this.

Bob Kabacy:

That's a great question. And in fact, I've talked to the publisher about that exact question and we have it sold as one book. The idea was that somebody would fill it out. But what I've experienced is that even with myself and my spouse, we each filled one out together. And even after 25 years of marriage, we learned things about each other and she would write things down. I'm like, I didn't know you wanted that. We had different answers for different things. And then for some families, they sit down with parents and children or parents, children, and grandchildren, and they go through it together and they fill it out together. And then they put it on the shelf of the estate planning documents. So I've talked to the publisher about a spousal set, as well as a family set that can fill out these things together as a group or as a couple, instead of just as an individual, I think doing it together, even if you just have one book is. Helpful because it does two things. One, it gets you disciplined to actually fill it out because look, let's be honest. This book is a good book. The chapters are very helpful, but the fill out section, isn't going to be valuable unless you actually fill it out. So you have to have the discipline to do it. It doesn't take long, but you have to sit down. And if you find a partner to sit down with and say, Hey, I'm going to do this thing very important. You can crochet or knit and I just need half an hour to fill this out. Get it done. That's what I would suggest. But yes, having other people there to help you is good, but make sure they're trusted. You wouldn't want to do it with, exposing your passwords or something to somebody you don't trust or just doing it at a Starbucks or on camera.

Danu Poyner:

Coming back to what you said at the start about procrastination and how most of us avoid this, do you find that the book helps get past that? Or is the procrastination still an issue?

Bob Kabacy:

Procrastination will always be an issue, I think with human beings, because if you can do it tomorrow, generally, we want to do it tomorrow and tomorrow, of course never comes. So there's actually two hurdles with this book. The first hurdle is actually purchasing it and I've had lots of people say, oh yeah, I'm going to get it. I just forgot. It's because they just don't want to acknowledge death or deal with this situation. The second is actually filling it out. I worked with the publisher on several mechanisms to try to overcome procrastination. The bottom line is there's just really no easy answer. It's a little bit like working out. I get home at the end of the day and I'm tired and I look at the swimming pool and I'm like, do I really want to get in? It's raining. I have a thousand excuses as to why not to go work out that day. We can make up a thousand excuses as to why not to do this, but there's one good reason why to do it. If something happens to you, it's a great gift for those loved ones you leave behind because without it, their job will be harder.

Danu Poyner:

Thank you for explaining that. On the technical side, you mentioned a term before probate. One of the things that I always ask people on the podcast is to explain something about their practice as if to a 10 year old. And hopefully in this case, a 10 year old, who won't need to know about probate for a good while, but I wonder if you could do that.

Bob Kabacy:

Sure. Sure. I usually like drawing analogies and telling stories because people can relate to that. Oftentimes I'll ask my clients, if they ever have gone out and picked blackberries or strawberries or something, and most people have picked some sort of Berry. And I say, well, what do you take with you when you go pick berries? And I get a lot to different answers, but the general answer is a bucket. I say, okay, let's imagine that a bucket is a trust and the berries are your assets. So each Blackberry represents an asset, like a house or a bank account or something like that. When you pick that Blackberry or acquire the. You have a choice of putting it in your hand, owning it in your own name or putting it in the bucket, owning it in the name of the trust. If you put the Blackberry in your hand or in the bucket, you can eat them. You can trade them for other berries. You can give them away. You have full control over the berries, but the difference is at death with the berries in your hand, rigor, mortis sets in crushing those berries, creating a mess. In that situation, we have a mess with the assets. We have to go to court to clean it up. And that's what probate is all about, is to take the assets that are in someone's individual name and give someone legal authority over those assets so they can transfer them to those who are living, the heirs, whether they're expressed in the will or not. Whereas the blackberries in the bucket, we can just simply set the bucket down, the trust, and we can name a successor trustee who can immediately distribute those blackberries consistent with our instructions without having to go to court. When I give that analogy, a lot of times clients say, well, I don't want blackberries in my hand. I want them in the bucket because I don't want to go to court. It's a long process. It's a public process and courts charge money lawyers, charge money, and it can be fairly expensive, depending on the circumstances.

Danu Poyner:

What a great explanation. That's gonna stick in my mind for sure. I've been very struck by the way that you have explained things so far with various analogies. I think that's always the mark of a good teacher. But I want to zoom out a little bit and talk about your own personal journey. You have this facility for explaining complex things in a simple way. And estate planning is not a field that everyone would necessarily have as their plan a. Did you have a plan, a.

Bob Kabacy:

I did. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a policeman. When I grew up, you were a policeman doctor, fireman, all the traditional roles, and I wanted to be the policeman cause the policemen helped people, they followed a set of rules that kept order. And over time, I kind of realized that maybe being on the frontline wasn't for me in that regard, but I still wanted to help people and follow the rules and support the system. So through a series of decisions and stuff, I decided to go into private practice. But I can tell you that being a lawyer is what I've wanted to do since I was about, well, after I wanted to be a policeman, I thought, nah, I'm not going to be a doctor. Hey, being a lawyer can really help. And I did, even on the playground helped people, mediate little playground disputes and stuff, but I always wanted people to get along and work together and have a good result as opposed to trying to do battle. I can remember that there were two kids and it was a kickball game. And one of the kids did something or said something. I don't even remember what it was. And the other kid just was really upset about it to the point that the circle started forming. You could hear it, the background, that fight flight fight chant. And I pulled one of them aside and I said, Hey, what are you doing? Let's think about this. I understand something was said, but let's think about what's going to happen here. I don't care. I don't care. And I said, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute, come over here. Listen to me. You're going to get kicked out of school. This is going to happen. The results of this are going to be bad. I like you. I want you to be here and. He settled down and I don't know, I probably wasn't listening to me, but enough time had passed that it became less of a emotional issue for him and more of a do I really want to do this? And they ended up walking away. I think everybody else was disappointed.

Danu Poyner:

That is a win on the playground, I think. That's not something you see very often. Normally you see the fight. I've heard you say in other places that one of the most important qualities for a lawyer to have is patience. I'd love to hear you talk a bit more

danu_poyner-2022-5-6__10-58-2-CFR:

about

Danu Poyner:

that.

Bob Kabacy:

so patience has not always come easy and it doesn't always come easy for a lot of people, but being a lawyer, having patience sometimes serves me better than not. Looking at it, what is patience? Patience is really, I think a skill that's developed from listening, analyzing, thinking about letting time pass and trying to ascertain what is the best solution for the issues that are presented. I think by having patience we usually get to the right answer. I also think by having patients we're able to solve difficult problems and communicate better. I'll give you a direct example. I had a client meeting recently and clients were trying to understand how an estate plan worked and no matter what analogies I used or how I was explaining it, I just wasn't getting across. And they were getting a little bit frustrated and I was getting frustrated, but I said to myself, I've got to have patience with these folks. I'm here as their selected expert to guide them through this difficult situation. I've got to find a way to connect with them on a level that they can understand. Finally, what I did is instead of talking about things, I put all the papers on the desk and I drew little diagrams on the papers and I said, okay, here's your house? Here's your bank account. Put a big dollar sign. Here is this here is that now, do we want all these shuffled like a deck of cards and just a big mess at the end? No, we don't want that. Okay. How do we arrange this? So that it's easy for anybody to handle this when you're gone. I let them do the work and they understood it once it was visual. So by having the patients and not just ending the meeting and saying, look, you guys, aren't going to get this. Let's just not do anything. I really worked to connect with them in a visual way, which is what they really understood. And once they understood that visually everything worked out, I think that goes with everything. For example, I learned very early in my marriage that the dishwasher could be loaded several different ways. It can be loaded from the front, from the back, from the top, from the bottom. And when my wife said to me, you know what, you're not loading the dishwasher right. I could have said, well, why don't you just load it next time then, but that wouldn't do any good for my marriage. So I said, please tell me, I had patience. Please tell me how you want to have it loaded and why, and maybe I can learn and make your life a little bit easier. It's worked out. Great.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. Is that kind of patient something that comes naturally to you or something that you've worked at?

Bob Kabacy:

No, no, it doesn't. I don't think it comes naturally to any human being because we have emotions and emotions sometimes guide us in ways that we shouldn't be guided and we need to put our emotions in check sometimes. So taking that moment to think about how important is this object really? Do I really want to engage? Do I really want to have the fight? And sometimes you do. But sometimes you just let things simmer a little bit and let life occur. Let your emotions calm down and use a balance of emotions and brain. And I think you'll usually get to a better answer.

Danu Poyner:

I like that phrase, let life occur. And if you do that, maybe the solutions present themselves. If you have a chance to calm down, think about it a bit differently. I want to talk about the magic, Bob, because I'm struck by the rules-based nature of the environment you're working in. You said something at the start about helping people by sometimes getting them out of their routine. At face value and law seem like pretty opposite kinds of things. What can you tell me about that?

Bob Kabacy:

The law is very left brain, rule-based. Magic seems very right brain and creative based, and it is, but of course, magic is also rule-based. We work with the rules of physics and the rules of psychology. So we do have a set of rules with magic. The difference between law and magic is while you mechanically apply the rules and sometimes emotions are involved, with magic, you present it at the story or at the magic in a way that manipulates the psychology or the physical nature of what you're doing, that gives an appearance of the impossibility. I want to use the word manipulate because good magicians will say they don't lie. They will let the audience make an assumption. It's very important as a magician and me as a lawyer in particular to not lie about anything. But if I say, please select a card, you're assuming that if a random card and from my perspective, it may not be a random card. I don't say please select a random card unless I really mean it. So magic is yes, a right brain activity in terms of its creation and its creativity, but it's also a left brain activity in terms of scripting and presentation and rule based and how to work with the rules. I find that it's a great bridge between my right brain and left brain to exercise what's going on as well as a great training tool. Teaching tool. It's fun. I really enjoy letting people get lost in the moment of magic. And if you've been to a good magic show and you allow yourself to get lost in the moment, it's very entertaining and it's not just about the effects. The effects are the effects. It's really about the storytelling that is behind the effects because of the effect by itself. Okay, great. You could watch a star wars, X wing blow up and it looks really cool on screen, but it's the story behind how that X wing got there and how that event occurred. And who's in the X wing that really matters. Magic is a lot about storytelling.

Danu Poyner:

It's so true. I went to this online event the other week and they had a magician doing a bit between each speaker. It was simple things he was doing, but he was drawing in the story from everything with presenters had said. It really lifted the whole event. So I have a lot of time for this. It's the magic something that you do on the side? Is it something you bring into your practice?

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah. Yeah. It's on the side. Yes. And not so much on the side lately with the book and with my practice and making sure that I stay married and have a good family and everything. So there's only 24 hours in the day, but I've pursued it as a serious hobby. Well, enough to have done state shows, parlor shows, closeup shows, busking table. And understanding the psychology of magic and frequently we'll include it in my presentations on estate planning, similar to your speaker. Instead of a joke, I'll open up with a magic trick or a story and how it fits into the estate planning. For example, one of the effects I use is a great effect. It's a Rubik's cube that you mix up right on stage. And you talk about how estate planning can be really complicated, but if you're guided correctly, you tossed the Rubik's cube in the air. And as you catch it, you can say it doesn't have to be complicated. And as you catch the mixed up Rubik's cube, you can actually show it solved, completely saw as if it solved in the air. The trick is with this type of speaking. I've got to pause for a little bit, because if I go right into my point, people are still thinking about how the rubrics off itself, as opposed to listening to what was my real point in the story.

Danu Poyner:

I don't think I've ever seen anyone apply these things together. It sounds like it must go over pretty well but what confidence does it take to present like that?

Bob Kabacy:

When you have to have a lot of confidence, because it's twofold. Number one, you've got to be a master of your presentation. So the concepts of estate planning or whatever, I'm speaking about the book or otherwise, the second thing you've got to have confidence in the magic effects. I did a show actually for my firm, which was about 70 people at the time or 50, it was. And it was a Christmas show. This was right before a COVID. And it was a 40 minute show, but I probably spent a year and a half and about 150 hours scripting and preparing for a 40 minute show because I wanted to make sure that I had confidence on stage, that things were going to go well and everything was going to be tied together nicely. The music was right, and it was an enjoyable experience for the audience. So it's not just about getting up and doing the tricks. It needs to be done as a presentation. Your confidence can get shaken sometimes because I have been on stage and have had an effect fail and they do occur sometimes. And the mark of a good professional. I learned this in the golf world. I got to walk behind a professional golfer for a tournament one day. And boy, he made many mistakes on the golf course, but it wasn't the mistake. It was how he got out of it. That was just amazing. So I've applied that to life and say, look, we're human beings. We're going to make mistakes. Whether you're a magician on stage or whether you're working in a restaurant and the order gets screwed up, it's not the mistake. It's how you get out of it. That really matters. And You weren't to get out of it with grace and with a little bit like a cat, I meant to do that, or this was supposed to happen. That's, what I've learned about the confidence and the stage presentations.

Danu Poyner:

Was there ever a world in which magic was more than a serious hobby and it was something that would have been your main gig.

Bob Kabacy:

Uh, no, I can't say it was, although I remember several nights working all day and then going out and working at bars and entertaining folks at bars and stuff, and that's called busking tables and whatnot. I've done that in Las Vegas a couple of times and had a great experience, but it's not something that I wanted to make a career out of because I didn't have that same passion for magic that someone like David Copperfield has, he lives and breathes magic. And his book, David Copperfield that recently came out is an awesome example of how passionate he is about. The passion that I have is really in the estate planning world. It's what I've built. It's what I live. It's what I breathe. It's why I wrote this book. If we follow our passions, we can make the world a better place, no matter what we're doing. If your passion is serving tables at a restaurant or your passion is it is, do it the best you can and become a master at it.

Danu Poyner:

Was there a moment when you had that realization, that estate planning was your passion with that kind of level of sudden clarity? Or was it something that dawned on you over a period of time?

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah, I put the data together. I took a state planning and tax and law school, and those were some of my easiest classes. After I started working, estate planning was one of the areas that the firm wanted me to work in and I was just thoroughly enjoying it. I dove in headfirst and learned as much as I could read as much as I could, and really became a, I wouldn't say an expert, but more knowledgeable than an average lawyer is in the estate planning arena. And really embraced it as, this is what I want to do with my life and have enjoyed it every moment, even after almost 30 years of doing that. I think the other thing that is a calling for me is I've been fascinated with the concept of death and the concept of loss and the human reaction to it. I really feel like part of my purpose is helping guide people through that because we don't have those guides in school. We don't have books out there. There are psychologists and psychiatrists that help people through grief. And there are some books that help people through grief and how to handle grief. It goes back to studies in 1969 about the five stages of grief. And now the brain mapping thought processes. Those are all fascinating things to me, because if I can help add information to that segment of society, I can help people. And if I help people that makes the world a better place and I want to leave the world a better place. than when I came into it.

Danu Poyner:

Thank you. I think that's a very powerful way of thinking about it. I guess then the book you've written is a synthesis of what you've learned from your own experience, as well as dealing with all of these clients over the years. I'm curious, in what ways you see that process of what happens after death varying depending on circumstance and in what ways are the same for everyone.

Bob Kabacy:

Great question. And we are on the forefront of the psychology of it. I've been doing a lot of reading in that regard. Back in 1969, a researcher indicated that there were these stages of grief we all go through. What we're learning and discovering today is that, yes, those are feelings we may have and emotions we have, but we all are different and we all experience it differently. We're starting to learn why we experience things so differently. And there are so many variables, it's a complicated formula, almost like a DNA strand in that, you got to look at the relationship of the loved one, your own upbringing, your emotional makeup, how much time you spent with them, how much time you spend with them currently. All of the things that go into loss, and we all react differently on different time schedules. And that's what sometimes causes disputes. I have seen cases where two siblings will have a loss of a parent and one will be done grieving after a period of months. And the other is grieving two years later. And the one that has done grieving after months says to the other one, I don't see what the big deal is. Why can't you just get over it, they're gone. That then creates or continues a sibling rivalry. That's just horrible. What I'm trying to ascertain and work out is a mechanism for folks to work through their grieving, understand that it's natural, do it in the natural course, but also understand that you can get stuck in the process. There are a lot of people who are stuck in the grieving process, who are still depressed after the loss of a loved one, and just can't get out of and grow from it, learn from it. I feel terrible for them and they should seek help. Listen, I have no problem admitting that I was struggling with the passing of my mother and I sought professional help because that's what they're there for. We live in communities with expertise. For a reason, we rely on each other for survival and to have a better life. So if we have those resources out there, we should use those instead of trying to self-help or take other drastic actions, which we read about.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And it really interesting example about the siblings, really shows that variation, I think as well, this might be a slightly in delicate question, but is there some difference in how the process unfolds when an estate is smaller as to when it's worth a lot of money and it's highly contested by the family.

Bob Kabacy:

Great question. The answer depends a lot on the nature of the heirs or the survivors. I have seen small estates, where disputes arise because. So-and-so took someone's doll when they were younger and they're not going to get away with it now. And they are going to fight to the death and spend the whole estate on lawyers, just to spite the other person. In the super wealthy estates I think you add the emotional aspect of money. We have to remember money is a tool, but people view money as a measure of love, or they view it as a measure of security, happiness. We know that money doesn't buy happiness. Although some people say it makes a good down payment on it, it doesn't. When you have larger estates in those disputes arise, the concepts and the disputes are the same. We just have the complicating factor of there's more to divvy up. There's more to fight about. So It becomes a mechanical process, but the actual emotions behind the disputes are pretty similar, whether it's a small estate or a large estate I'm not surprised by that conclusion either because we're all human beings. We have our emotions. All our emotions are pretty similar when you boil them all down. We all have bouts of greed and we all have bouts of sadness. We all have bouts of happiness and joy. We all share these things. It's just when we share them and how we share them and how we communicate about them with each other, that can sometimes cause disputes, especially when you're dealing with the loss event, and the grieving process. I love this idea of the brain having a remap and I've experienced it. Physically you're tired, mentally, you're tired. And as a result, when you're disputing with a sibling or another heir, it can become overwhelming and the negative situation, a negative experience. I try to help my estates get through that and make sure that they don't have it similar to the playground. I wanna make sure that states go through smoothly.

Danu Poyner:

That's so interesting. Thank You've been doing this for a long time. Knowing what you know now what's advice you would give to young bob

Bob Kabacy:

A couple of things. One, I would tell young Bob to be a little bit more patient. I wasn't patient I've had to learn that. The second thing that I would probably tell young Bob is, you don't have to be an overachiever for people to like you. I grew up in an environment where people would like you, if you found massive success. Tom cruise, great movie success, not everybody likes him. And do they like him only because of his success? I don't know. Cause I don't know him. And I don't know the people who are interacting with him, but I think I would tell young Bob, people are going to like you for who you are, as long as you just be yourself, you don't have to overachieve in order to try to get people to like you. I am where I am today because young Bob probably wanted to overachieve to get more people to like him. Today I help run a law firm. I've got this book, I still swim. I've got a good family. I'm still overachieving today, but I'm coming to the realization that people are gonna like me for who I am, if I just be myself and if they don't like me, okay, I'll move away from them.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, it takes a certain level of life experience to come to that. Doesn't it. Speaking of overachieving, You mentioned the swimming. you've been a nationally ranked swimmer in the 50 yard freestyle. Is that right?

Bob Kabacy:

Yeah. It was a NAI division two. So went to university of Puget sound and I ended up getting a national record my senior year, which was a very exciting event.

Danu Poyner:

What do you enjoy about swimming?

Bob Kabacy:

I think swimming for me is a little bit like meditation or yoga for a lot of people. When I'm in the pool, swimming, doing it well, it takes a lot of mechanical thought and it allows me to be mindful. And in the moment, how is my hand entering the. Am I getting the right degree as I pull through the water, how does the water feel? Am I going fast enough? How is my body feeling at the moment? What that mindfulness does is it allows us as people to let the subconscious process everything else that has been going on throughout the day. There was a recent thing in national geographic about mindfulness. What they're realizing is that we go through the day and we have all this stuff and conscious thoughts. Our subconscious can process things in a way that our conscious can't and by being mindful through yoga meditation, just mindfulness exercise, there's even an app out there about that or swimming or whatever you're doing. We can actually become more effective in what we're doing. And make better decisions and become less bogged down. It's a little bit like a filter. That's processing everything for us. That's what, how our subconscious acts. If I'm able to process everything at the end of the day, or even in the morning, if I do a morning swim, I just have a better day, better evening. My wife knows when I come home, she's like you're swimming tonight, right? Yep. And she says, okay, you're done with your workout. Great to see the Bob. I know again.

Danu Poyner:

That's a really interesting point bob, and I'm struck several times in this conversation, by the way you described situations and being present in that moment, like the realization during your own grieving process about how that would be applicable. And as you're saying with the swimming about how the hand is moving through the water, I think that mindfulness is a really way of making sense of that.

Bob Kabacy:

It's something that allows me to, while my body's not at rest, my mind is at rest because I'm focused on all of the details to make my stroke better. Let's be honest. I'm not going to go to the Olympics. I'm not going to be a nationally ranked swimmer again, unless it's masters or something, but I still want to have that good technique. And I still want to be able to, I call it, get up on it sometimes in the pool and really just enjoy the moment because I know a couple of things are gonna happen. Number one, I'll become a better swimmer. Technically number two, I'll let my subconscious filter out all the garbage that occurred during the day. And number three, doesn't like that endorphin rush at the end when your workouts over.

Danu Poyner:

Absolutely. It sounds like you like to get up on it in everything that you do in life. What are you focusing on at the moment?

Bob Kabacy:

I think getting this book out is really important to me and what I've learned about publishing is. You have books that you have to work to get them out. And sometimes they fail and just die on the vine. Sometimes they get their own life and they just create their own reputation. And they just take off, I'm trying to get this book to have its own life. And the purpose for that is I've got a second one ready to go for editing, which expands and brings more of during life process instead of that death process into the fold in a similar vein. I really want to get going on that, but my publisher says, let's get this one going first. And then we'll work on getting the second one going. I've got to promote that first one. At the same time, I've got to keep my law practice going and, I want to make sure. Child is doing what he supposed to be doing. And my wife is happy.

Danu Poyner:

A lot of plates to keep spinning. We'll put a link to the book in the show notes, of course. But where would you suggest is the best place for people to go have a look at it?

Bob Kabacy:

Sure. You can go to Robert dot com. That's a good summary of the book it's available on beyond words, who's the publisher. You can also pick it up at the regular sources like Amazon Barnes and Nobles. There's several links on the Robert qbc.com that talk about it in detail so that you can see how it is.

Danu Poyner:

Wonderful. One question I always ask everyone who comes on the podcast, is you could gift someone a life-changing learning experience, what would it be and why?

Bob Kabacy:

This is a great question. Maybe this is skewed because of the profession on me and if I could do so in a safe environment, I think I would want somebody to have, I wouldn't want to give it to them, but I would want somebody to have a near death experience and the reason I would want them to have that and come out of it. Cause I don't want them to die, but I'd want them to come out of it because the people who I've met, who have had near death experiences, see the world in a very unique, enlightened way that the rest of us who don't understand what death really is feel. They just enjoy every moment, a little bit more. They appreciate things a little bit more. And the minutia of the day bothers them a little bit last. If you are diagnosed with cancer and you realize that you may not make it, and then you do make it, you become a little bit different person. You have an experience that says, wow, I dodged a bullet on that one. I think you see the world a little bit differently. I think a little bit better. I would never wish death on somebody. I would never wish the experience or pain or whatever they're going through. But if I could somehow magically implant that feeling of seeing the world a little bit better without your death experience, that's what I'd want to do.

Danu Poyner:

Well, that is not the answer I expected, but it's maybe the best answer you could have given, I think. I wonder if people. Who have had that experience, whether sometimes other people find them a bit annoying after a while because they bring such positivity. It puts a pressure on the people around them to be more positive than they want to be.

Bob Kabacy:

It could be, but it's not necessarily positive. The people I've interacted with the lead normal lives. They just, they see it a little bit differently. It's very subtle, but they see it a little bit differently because they know we're not like cars. Your car runs out of oil. You still can drive it for a little bit. You get a flat tire, you can tell it or whatever. Man. If we have an artery that pops out, we're gone, we have a vessel in our brain that strokes out we're gone. So we're very fragile. And I think that those who have had the experience recognize the fragileness of life and understand that the big picture there's more to it than just the minutiae. They pay attention to the minutia, but they're just a little bit calmer. It seems like.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. yeah, it's been a great pleasure talking to you today. I really have enjoyed our conversation. It's gone to some places that I didn't expect at all, and I really have enjoyed what you said about letting life occur and getting people out of their routine. It's such a love of life that comes through from listening to you. I think that more than many people, you are well positioned to have that approach and be that guide for people through the difficult process of planning for what happens death. I want to thank you very much for that.

Bob Kabacy:

I want to thank you for having me on the program today. I often have been asked if you could do anything what would you do? And I often will respond I would want to be a rock star. And they say, why? And I say, well, number one, not the way you're thinking, because I have no musical talent. But if you think about it, a rock star and a rock performance. Has the ability to suspend people's normal life for a couple hours and really bring enjoyment to them at a grand scale, 50,000 people at a time or more, they help make the world a better place at a grand scale. And I'm trying to do it one family at a time, one book at a time. And maybe at some point I get to be like one of the other authors that can command a theater of a couple thousand people. And, we'll get there. Maybe not. If I can only change one life at a time, I've done my job. I've left the world a better place. That's what I want.

Danu Poyner:

Thank you. That was a great place to leave it. I hope people do check out the book as well, because it is genuinely, one of the most interesting things I've seen. There are things out there that are very mechanical for preparing, but I think this is a very human book and it's designed in a very human way. please do go check it out

Bob Kabacy:

Thank you very much.