My Disability Plans, Tested

Last Friday my husband, our 6 year old daughter, and I went to Boston for what was to have been a fairly routine 12 week ultrasound. We expected to see a healthy baby, then go out to celebrate with lunch in town. Instead, we were shocked to learn the baby had died. There was no longer a heartbeat like I’d seen at the last ultrasound a couple weeks earlier when everything looked good.

The doctor explained that it there had been some horrible genetic accident that occurred at conception. The baby never had a chance and I required emergency surgery for my own health. My husband and I shifted into planning mode to coordinate logistics of who could come care for our three young children ages almost 2 to 6 while he took me in for surgery. My best friend, who is more like a sister, whom my children know as “Auntie”, and who has clear legal authority to care for them in an emergency was on her way in a heartbeat.

Call it an occupational hazard, but part of my preparation that night was reviewing the DGVE law Firm Disability Plan with my lawyer-husband, reminding him how to access my work accounts and where everything is backed up, reminding him to coordinate with my Client Liaison and Paralegal, Astrid, and the rest of our DGVE law team if need be.

I also reminded my husband and my Legal Assistant, Elizabeth, where our own estate plan is physically located.  As I always explain to my clients, it’s important that the people we entrust to step into our shoes and manage our affairs and make critical choices for us in the event of an emergency in which we may be incapacitated or after our deaths know where and how to access the documents that provide them that legal authority.

After a sleepless night we arrived at Mass. General Hospital the next morning. The nurse (who was wonderful!) asked if I had a health care proxy. My husband handed her my emergency medical wallet card and she was able to instantly access my most recent health care proxy, HIPAA authorization, living will, and medical condition/allergy information.

My husband and I had reviewed my specific medical concerns and wishes the night before and on the drive in to the hospital. In the event I was unable to make my own medical decisions, I was confident he would express my wishes and advocate for me. This is precisely why I always advise my clients to allow for these difficult thoughts and conversations; we never know when they may become relevant and necessary.

It was a little worse than either they expected or perhaps than they wanted us to anticipate. Physically, I’m recovering well from all of it.  Emotionally, I know this will be a long road. I am filled beyond words with gratitude for and fortified by the outpouring of love, empathy, and support we’ve been receiving from our friends and family.

I’m also comforted knowing I had undergone the unpleasant process of contemplating my own possible incapacity and death and made arrangements for myself and my family.  I’ve found my workload tends to slow down in July and August each year as most of my clients would prefer to be out enjoying summer with their families. I understand! Trust me, I’d so much rather be out on the beach with my husband and our kids soaking up every last drop of summer, and I will be again very soon! But before you  head back out to the playground or the beach again or take off for the Cape and islands this weekend, please make sure that you have done all you possibly can to prepare and legally protect yourself and your family. It will be one less thing for you to worry about if anything unexpected ever happens to you too.

If you’re the parent or parent-to-be of young children here in the Boston area and you would like help legally protecting yourself and your family, call my office now at 781-740-0848. I’ll look forward to meeting you and providing you some truly priceless peace of mind.  Don’t delay another day; it’s not worth the risk.

Wishing you and your family a very happy, healthy, fun-filled summer!


About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: or call: 781-740-0848

1 thought on “My Disability Plans, Tested

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I really do want to learn more about the wallet card. As a single mom, I think it would be super important for me to have something like that. Best wishes for healing to you and your loved ones. I am so sorry for your loss.


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