Estate Planning: Grappling with Forklifts and Transitions

Jim Gianelli
By Jim Gianelli September 15, 2017 21:14

Transition is a theme of this issue of Friends and Neighbors, so I decided to make my last column for the magazine both personal and informative.

Over the past 36 years, our law firm has served more than 8,000 clients. For businesses, we plan for succession and retirement. For individuals, we plan for disability and the ultimate transition, death.

I often ask myself why I now cry more – and more often – with client friends who have experienced loss, be it a turn in their own health or the death of a loved one. Why have I not become desensitized to these inevitable processes that I have seen over and over and over again?

The answer has become clear. Transition has become less conceptual and more personal.

I have in the past been afflicted by pro-mandibular dystonia, a disorder that almost left me unable to talk (not so hot for a lawyer, right?). And as I write this, I’m on my couch awaiting major and ultimately successful shoulder surgery (stupid forklift prongs that did not see me coming).

I’m rapidly approaching retirement and often wonder who that aging fogey staring back at me from the mirror might be. And I’m losing more friends and relatives than ever.

So now I feel a real, even visceral reaction to the term “transition.” And yes, I realize that transition is the only constant in life. It is simply a function of time. Love it or hate it, gracefully adapt to it or viciously fight it, you will still have to deal with it.

My advice? Face transition with grace; accept it, adapt to it, plan for it. Life will go on whether or not you do so. But planning can make transition easier on those you love. It is a function of caring. So plan as if the lives of those you care about will be deeply affected by what you do, because more often than not this is true.

Are you young or old? Do you have lots of money or very little? Is your family functional, dysfunctional or even “functionally dysfunctional”? It doesn’t matter. Thoughtful planning can make a significant difference in the lives of those you care about most. Bottom line: Planning tells your loved ones that you care.

The only remaining transition I’d like to discuss is this magazine’s. We fans of FAN must now bid goodbye to the editors of one of the best (if not the best) periodicals Tuolumne County has ever seen. My associate, Tamara Polley, and I have been privileged to be among its contributors.

Thank you Suzy, Chris and the FAN crew for the professionalism, compassion and generosity that you have shown for the people of our community. If not for the magazine’s feature stories, many of our own fascinating friends and neighbors would have remained largely anonymous, their tales untold. FAN’s work, its stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, has been a labor of love. I speak for the community when I wholeheartedly say thank you.

And may your own transition be both an ending to something remembered and treasured as well as a new beginning that will be excitingly embraced.

Jim Gianelli is a founding partner in Gianelli & Polley, a Sonora law firm. Read more of his and Tamara Polley’s columns online at

Copyright © 2017 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Jim Gianelli
By Jim Gianelli September 15, 2017 21:14
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