While Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain often get credit for the saying, Daniel Defoe in The Political History of the Devil came up with the common and irrefutable adage that, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
As tax day is closely approaching, I’ve been pondering the relationship between these two not-so-popular topics. Here are some of my thoughts so far:
» Death and taxes are quite real and will happen for each one of us. Even if we find a way to avoid income taxes, we will not avoid sales taxes or many other taxes that permeate our society. So it is with our mortality — “none of us is getting out of here alive.”
» Death and taxes can be complicated, scary and something we often don’t think about it until we are forced to. While a few enviable folks enter tax season with all their records carefully organized and ready to process, many put it off as long as possible. The same is true with life — some enlightened souls live each day mentally, emotionally and spiritually aware of their mortality, while many of us privately assume that luck, good fortune or new advances in medicine will keep us going indefinitely.
» We know taxes are due April 15 — extended to April 18 this year — but we don’t know our own “due date.” Tsunamis and public tragedies, as well as the sudden death of friends considered “too young for that” alert us to the fact that “our time” could be at any time.
» We may get some “extensions” for both (for death, with medical intervention), but even extensions have their limit.
» Some people are determined to deal with death and taxes on their own, but many find it very helpful to get some outside help in finding the best options.
» You may get away with cheating on your taxes, but none of us can ultimately cheat death.
So putting aside some of the levity for a moment, I’d like to send out an important reminder about both death and taxes as tax day approaches. Not being an accountant, I’ll focus on the theme of wise living.
For our own peace of mind, and on behalf of people we love, it is a great gift for us to do some simple advance planning for whenever our “due date” may come. At Hospice of Santa Barbara, we offer as a free service the chance to have one of our experienced professionals meet with you and your family to help you understand what decisions you can make now that will make things much easier for the time when our life here concludes.
Using widely accepted tools such as advance directives and “Five Wishes,” this can include medical directives, preferences you have for any memorial services, plans for how you want to be remembered and what you want your loved ones to know. In addition, if you don’t have someone to assist with legal and financial planning, we have a list of reputable people we can give you. Like all of our services, we offer this without charge to the community.
Beyond the practical side of planning for our “due date,” Hospice of Santa Barbara has many resources for anyone in the community who is facing a life-threatening illness or grieving the loss of a loved one. Call Hospice of Santa Barbara at 805.563.8820 or click here.
I hope all of you get through this year’s tax day healthy, wealthy and a little wiser.
— Steve Jacobsen is executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara. Call Hospice of Santa Barbara at 805.563.8820 for a schedule of adult and children’s groups, or to make a donation. Become a fan of Hospice of Santa Barbara on Facebook.