I remember my first Christmas tree as a married woman. Spending the
holidays away from my childhood home, my husband and I braved shopping
center parking lots in search of the perfect Christmas tree. The tree
we bought was beautiful—for two days at least. Then needles began
dropping from the tree because neither my husband nor I knew that you
had to cut the bottom of the tree so that it could absorb water. As the
fallen needles left bare branches, ornaments which were family
heirlooms began to fall to the floor. Our first great tree adventure
was a disaster. It was a disaster because I had forgotten to plan and
because I thought I knew how to do it all.

Too often, we baby boomer forget to plan for the unexpected and the
tragic. We baby boomer women know too many women who have been stricken
with breast cancer. We know of family members who have died
unexpectedly. We know that disasters can and do strike businesses,
communities, and families. Some disasters, like the recent hurricanes,
are acts of nature. Others are man made such as the terrorism tragedies
this country has faced. While one cannot predict the time a disaster
will strike, prudent individuals can and should prepare for the worst.

Planning for the worst means planning for an unexpected death. While no
one wants to think of death, it is a certainty—only the date and cause
remain a mystery. To protect loved ones, it is imperative that a baby
boomer have a will (otherwise the government determines how to
distribute your assets). While the particulars of a will are often
determined by tax considerations and personal goals, anyone with more
than a modicum of property needs a will. In addition, we baby boomers
are more likely to end up disabled than dying. If that happens, someone
needs to be able to make medical decisions for us, but in accordance
with our wishes. In some respects then, a medical directive is even
more important than a will. Of course, powers of attorneys and trust
for property should be considered.

Planning for the worst means thinking about insurance. While we baby
boomers do not like talking to insurance salesmen for fear that they
will stalk us forever, we need to think about insurance on a consistent
basis. If a fire struck, would we be fully insured? If we were sued for
an auto tort, would we have enough coverage or do we need an umbrella
policy? Do we have a disability policy if we suddenly were diagnosed
with cancer? Do we have enough life insurance to send family members to
protect us and to pay for inevitable death taxes? An insurance review
needs to be done every year.

Planning for the worst means thinking about our job and what we would
do if we did not have it. Many baby boomers forget to negotiate
business contracts which will protect their interest. Too often, they
rely on a kind word, a solemn handshake or a simple nod. Such unwritten
agreements are almost always legally meaningless. Agreements for
succession, severance pay, and guaranteed benefits need to be in
writing.

We baby boomers must also consider what would happen if a larger,
community based tragedy struck. Do we have enough water, prescription
medicine, and supplies to survive without electricity and
transportation for a few days? If there was an immediate evacuation
ordered, where would the family go? How would the family stay in
contact? Who would take care of your mother-in-law during the
evacuation? While no one can plan for the specifics of a disaster,
certainly broad outlines of what should be done should be considered
and discussed with love ones.

Finally, we baby boomers must not forget to ask for help when we plan
for the worst. I certainly should have asked for help with that first
Christmas tree. Back then, I was too stubborn to ask for help and
perhaps too naive to know that everyone asks for help at times. Baby
boomers, then, need to ask for help from lawyers, accountants,
insurance agents and financial planners. Planning may not prevent such
disasters, but certainly can help minimize risks and losses when a
tragedy occurs.

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Ms. Lambert rose to national prominence as a litigator with a focus on insurance law in an age when there were few women litigators, particularly in the area of insurance law. Ms. Lambert has spent the last twenty years developing what is now recognized as one of the largest insurance practices in the state of Maryland. She lectures nationally, has received a gubernatorial appointment in the field of insurance, and is sought for her advice by Fortune 500 companies.