Patrick Willis on Unfinished Business at The End of Life | PoP 449

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Patrick Willis on Unfinished Business at The End of Life | PoP 449

What are some steps you can take today to make sure that your loved ones and business is prepared should anything unexpected happen to you? Have you planned what happens to your digital legacy when you pass on? Who will take control of your business when you are no longer around?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Patrick Willis about unfinished business at the end of life and things you can do today to start preparations.

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Meet Patrick Willis

Having seen firsthand the turmoil of friends and family going through life-threatening illness, Patrick realized that the medical system which is geared up so well for fixing people physically, rarely equips them for the mental conflict that inevitably arises.

Seeing this void so desperately in need of filling, Patrick took his business experience and coaching skills and designed a program to help those diagnosed with a terminal illness live their best possible life. Patrick’s work pioneers a unique approach covering everything needed to complement medical care – from mindset shifts to household checklists to leaving the best possible legacy for their family.

Patrick became a business owner in 2016 finally escaping the corporate greasy pole. He is the father of five children, a leader in a local church and a folk and jazz musician among other things!

Visit Patrick’s website.

In This Podcast


  • Crucial points to consider when planning and preparing your business
  • Important steps to include that will make preparation easier
  • Preparing your business for the unexpected

Crucial points to consider when planning and preparing your business

  • Take into consideration medical advanced care planning, practical preparations, and digital legacy when planning and preparing your business.
  • Do research in order to gain knowledge.
  • Select a person that you can trust with valuable information.
  • Select a person to oversee the systems.
  • Ensure that employees, clients, and other businesses are taken into consideration during the preparation process.

Important steps to include that will make preparation easier

  • Create a password, LastPass is great for this.
  • Try incorporating a digital access code.
  • Create a cash flow system.
  • Only share business access codes with a person that you may consider to be trustworthy.
  • Set up a video on My Directives to give clear instructions to family members.

Preparing your business for the unexpected

  • Depending on the legal entity of your businesses you can always pass it on to another member in your team.
  • Start writing out standard operating procedures so that you’re not the only one with all the knowledge. This you can do gradually over time.
    Be familiar with who is controlling the content of your website, blog posts and marketing material. Ensure that it is owned by your business.

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK]: This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 449.
When it comes to keeping your practice organized, you want software that’s not only simple but the best. I recommend Therapy Notes. Their platform lets you manage notes, claims, scheduling and more. Plus, they offer amazing unlimited phone and email support so when you have a question they’re there to help. You get two months free of therapy notes today just by using the promo code [JOE], that’s [JOE] when you sign up for a free trial. Go on over to and use promo code [JOE].
Well things are busy over here at Practice of the Practice world headquarters. Slow Down School tickets are wrapping up so if you are planning to come to Slow Down School and hang out on the beaches of Northern Michigan to get into that multi six figure practice and launch those big ideas, make sure you grab those soon because those tickets are closing in just a couple of weeks here. So that Also, if you aren’t coming to Killin’It Camp, what’s wrong with you? This is the largest meetup of private practitioners in our community. You’ve got to come to it. We’re expecting over 400 private practitioners. Last year we had 140. We really are excited about this. We have some killer speakers we’re going to be introducing you too soon and just can’t wait for you to join us.
We’d absolutely love for you to be a part of this. It is our largest event that we put on and it’s just so much fun to bring together people with a like-minded mindset, people that want to go after it, they want to grow, they want to be big, but they don’t want to do it at the expense of just burning out. So, head on over to killin’, that’s killing, drop the G, so killin’ We’d love to have you get a ticket there and those prices are going to, the early bird is going to be ending soon. So, you want to grab those soon. Also, depending on you know, at the time of this recording we still have a couple of volunteer tickets left. So, you get a discounted price but you just do a five-hour shift. It’s great way to have a kind of affordable way to do this conference and to also be a part of a bigger community.
Well today, we have Patrick Willis, who is kind of dovetailing off of last time’s episode where we’re talking about unfinished business at the end of life and really making sure that we have things within our business that are wrapped up in. It’s such an important discussion that, you know, when you think of private practice, you don’t necessarily think of this, but it really is such an important discussion. So, without any further ado, I give you Patrick Willis.
Well, today on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we have Patrick Willis. Patrick has seen firsthand the turmoil of friends and family going through life threatening illnesses. Patrick realized that the medical system which is geared up so well for fixing people physically, rarely equips them for their mental conflict that inevitably arises. Patrick, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[PATRICK WILLIS…: Joe, thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
[JOE]: Yeah, well, I’m really excited to have you on because, you know, in the previous episode we had Jay Gabranis, who had talked about kind of being the prepared father. And this is just a perfect follow-up to that episode, or a compliment to that episode because, these end of life issues are things that, you know, honestly, most of us never really think about or talk about until something happens to a friend or a family member. How did you first get into this work? Why is this important to you?
[PATRICK]: Yeah, that’s a great question. Just to mention though, you mentioned Jay. Jay and I have met and talked actually and found out we were both quite excited to find that we were heading in the same direction and have found some of the same gaps, if you like. So, I think Jay really looks at the financial stuff and I look more holistically, but it’s really fascinating to meet him as well. So, but yeah, sorry, back to your question. How do I get, I mean, it’s odd. I mean, my background is I was a corporate executive. I’ve been an engineer. You know, I’ve never been in the caring professions like probably many of your listeners have. So, I’ve come from a very different angle and I was literally out walking one day, I go out quite frequently to pray and to meditate. It’s about three years ago now and this idea just dropped to my head, you know, and it would not let me go and I thought, “I better check this out and to see if there’s something I could and should be doing. It should be what I should be doing my time.”
So, over the last three years, that’s something I’ve been evolving. I had a lot of the skills already in terms of coaching. II was familiar with that, knew how to do that more from a business perspective and the life coaching generally. And so, I just had to really dig into the end of life path and fill in gaps in my knowledge and skill base and realize that the gap was even bigger than I’d thought it was.
[JOE]: Oh man. And what kind of gaps did you see, as you kind of dug in?
[PATRICK]: Well, you hinted that already, where you mentioned that’s what people like to think about because, and again, when I talk to people about this, they say, “Oh yeah. Yeah, I know. I’ve got to get around to making a will sometime,” and they’re just trying to think. “Yeah, that’s it.” But that’s really the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many parts to this puzzle from your medical advanced care planning, from things like your practical preparations, like you know who’s going to pay your bills if you’re incapacitated through to your digital legacy or what happens to your business when you’re incapacitated or you die unexpectedly. There’s a whole bunch of stuff, Joe, that people just don’t think about until it’s too late.
[JOE]: Yeah. Just last night, I was signing into LastPass, which is a password management system and I love it because we can have these crazy advanced passwords and I don’t have to remember all of them. But I said to my wife, “Okay, so here’s the clue Christina.” And I gave her the clue. “What do you think the password would be because, you know now, knowing I’m talking to you and to Jay?” And she guessed and she was totally wrong. And she was like, “Oh the clue, I thought it would be…” So, I told her and she was like, “I’m not going to remember that.” I said, “Christina, you have to.” And so, I’m like, “Okay, I guess I have to maybe write that master password down somewhere or like, write it on our will or something.” But just, you know, those are the things that I wouldn’t have really even thought of until having these kinds of conversations with you Patrick.
[PATRICK]: Well it’s fascinating you mentioned that Joe. I recommend LastPass to my clients. It’s one of the key things I recommend because one of the things you can do with it is in case of emergency access, so you can keep your —
[JOE]: Oh, you can?
[PATRICK]: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, there’s an option in there. You have to go for the paid version of the kind of three bucks a month or whatever it is to do that. But essentially if you’re on that version, you can nominate an emergency contact. They can get in with their own password and you could divide stuff up there for stuff that you might want your spouse to access if you weren’t able to. So yeah, that’s all kind of out of the box if you go for the next tier up in there. So that’s what I do.
[JOE]: Yeah. Well I have the paid one because I have to share so many passwords with different members of my team. So [crosstalk].
[PATRICK]: Just look at the emergency access section. You will find what you need.
[JOE]: Wow. Okay. So, we’ll, let’s zoom out. I think we can get into the practical nuts and bolts things, but I want to hear more of kind of the why this is so important for people. Like, do you have stories of people you’ve worked with or personal stories of either when that preparation has really worked out well, where it made it easier on the family or when it’s been more difficult for them?
[PATRICK]: Yeah, absolutely. Clearly, I’m mentioning no names but long after I felt I got this calling, I thought, “Well, I need to go and start spending time around people who are in the end of life space. So, I also am a leader of a local church. So, I started volunteering in my local hospice to offer counseling and support to people going through end of life. And that’s where I started to see some more of the gaps that were there. And in particular, one of the biggest challenges I see, especially with people are, you know, perhaps in the later stages, and perhaps know that they don’t have that long to live is the difficulty of communication between the person and their loved ones in terms of both, almost like putting up some level of pretense at times when terms of things are actually okay rather than talking through it honestly.
[JOE]: So, they, would that be after kind of something happened or would that be just in everyday life that most people aren’t doing that?
[PATRICK]: I think it’s true of both. I think in every life, one thing I often know, which is a little tool set is a set of 10 questions of if this were to happen to you health wise, what would you want to happen in terms of, would you want, what sort of level of treatment or level of intervention would you want? And I give it to a person to their partner and say, “You answer for the other one and let’s see if your answers agree. So, if you answer for yourself and then you answer for the other person and see if your answers actually match up so you’ve got a view if you know what the other person actually wants.” And when people stop and do that, it can make such a difference as getting on the same page because sometimes a lot of people, especially towards the end of their life, they actually say, “You know, I’m done. I’m good now. I don’t want to scramble for the last extra few days of life that’s going to cost me and my family. But getting to that agreement with a loved one, it can be really difficult.
[JOE]: Yeah, you know my wife’s grandma passed away probably a month ago at the time of this recording and she was 96. She was a couple days from turning 97 and she had been sick for, I mean she had kind of been off and on for the last couple of years, but I mean really it was the last six months and it was really interesting to just, you know, as the in-law, to kind of watch the family where some people wanted a lot of intervention and a lot of treatment and just like let her keep going and others kind of said, “Well, you know, she wants to kind of just be peaceful and to be not in pain.” You know, if those things aren’t directly sketched out, you know, it causes kind of unneeded turmoil within a family.
[PATRICK]: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. The medical profession has a name for it called the Daughter from California syndrome. So, you know, and that calls if you live in New York. If you live in California, be the daughter of New York, you know. So, but you know, the guilty feeling relative comes in, comes at the room and says, “We should do everything we can,” mainly because they feel guilty because they haven’t been around and been supporting, haven’t been supporting their loved one. And there’s a great antidote to that, a really great one that I discovered recently. One of the systems I recommend is called MyDirectives. It’s national in the U.S., and it’s free to use. So, you know, there’s no, nothing in it financially for me or anybody since it’s paid for by healthcare providers. And they’ll let you record videos say, “Right, this is what I want and this is whoever person I’ve asked to express my wishes for me.” And, “Hey daughter. It’s okay, you weren’t there at the time. Don’t worry about it. Trust this person please.” That is so powerful having that in a video, rather than just written down or someone was passing it on
[JOE]: And someone can just Google MyDirectives and they’ll be able to find it?
[PATRICK]: Yeah. And it is a fantastic resource.
[JOE]: Okay. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.
[PATRICK]: I recommend it as part of the training idea, but it’s a fantastic free resource that anybody can access.
[JOE]: Wow. So, what are other kind of nuts and bolts of things, kind of preparing, things that people really need to maybe have in their awareness that they wouldn’t naturally think of? Because to me I think yeah, everyone should have a will and those that don’t have a will should, you know, get in that process. And if you have kids or you know, significant life insurance, maybe you want to have a trust, but talk to an about that sort of thing. Those seem like some of the basics. What are some things that maybe people don’t even think to have be a part of their plan?
[PATRICK]: Well, I mean you mentioned LastPass earlier. That’s a really basic one, which is just simple household stuff and like your cell phone and things like that. So, if you were incapacitated, you know, say you were in a coma or something and your spouse wants to get hold of some of your friends or work colleagues to let them know, if you could just get on your cell phone and get to a contact list, that’d be pretty straightforward. But if you, I mean, it’s just, that is really, really simple, isn’t it? Well, let’s suppose if you’re the main bill payer and so forth and you run the household or you know, where the online shopping is going to deliver, all this sort of stuff. Then again, if you’ve just got some very simple stuff written down about that, it can save bills going unpaid, it can save creditors ringing up and all sorts of things that will just happen.
And frankly, if you’ve got a major trauma in your family, it’s the last time you need that kind of stuff going on. So just some very, very simple practical preparations to go through a checklist of, okay, what bills are getting paid? How do they get paid? Where’s the stuff kept and, you know, how do you get hold of my work colleagues and my friends and so forth? Just simple, practical sort of that can make a huge, huge difference.
[JOE]: Yeah. I mean, as you say those things, I think to myself, I think Christina and I are pretty good at that because, you know, we kind of have said there’s not really a reason one of us shouldn’t be able to get into the other cell phone. I mean, we don’t snoop around, that I know of, you know, but just to be able to know each other’s password if we need to get into it or, you know, there have been times that one of us might leave our phone at home and a call might come through or, “Hey, this is Joe calling from someone else’s phone. Can you get into my texts and let so-and-so know something?”
Those seem like things that if you have a significant other to be able to get into one another’s, you know, the account for your house, all that stuff to have basic access would be, what I would say would be an assumption but then thinking about if someone doesn’t have those, that kind of access with their significant other, that might be, you know, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say it’s indicative of not having trust with that person, but to then say, well, what is it about having that person have access to those things that concerns you? That could be a broader issue that is exposed and hopefully helps you have an even better relationship.
[PATRICK]: That’s a good point. I mean I find more often than not, it’s just somebody hasn’t thought about it. It has just not come up. That’s more often than not.
[JOE]: Yeah. So, passwords, kind of those sorts of things. What else is important in regards to kind of preparation?
[PATRICK]: I mean there was a long list which we’re kind of working through here as you say Joe. I mean people’s businesses can be a real interesting one because again, if you’re just as a solopreneur, if you just work for yourself entirely and you expect your business to finish when, you know, at the end of your life, that’s one thing. But if you have staff that that depend on you, if you’ve got a business you want to live on after you, if you’ve got clients that you’re working with, then having a plan for what happens for that business if you can’t run it, even if you’re incapacitated, or if did die unexpectedly is really, really important. And there’s a few aspects of that which I can go into a little bit if you’d like.
[JOE]: Yeah, I think that would be helpful. And just thinking about a lot of our listeners, you know, they may be a solopreneur and doing individual counseling work, but a lot of them are leveling up to a group practice where they may have, you know, five or six clinicians that are working for them. And then their brand, you know, there’s no reason if that person passes on that the brand couldn’t continue. But yeah, let’s talk through what that would look like for a business to almost have a business will?
[PATRICK]: Well I just say some parts without a will. So, clearly from a legal perspective then the first part is the legal entity of your business. So, are you just a sole proprietor or you’ve got part of an LLC or LLP or have you set up a corporation? Frankly, if you’ve gone a bit further up the structure, like having a corporation or something, even if it’s just, one or two people or a small group, it’s much more, it’s easier to pass it on without it breaking down. So, having effectively a corporation as a separate entity to you makes a lot of things simpler in terms of passing them on because then from your perspective, your share and your corporation is part of your asset base, which you can, will to if you wish.
That’s the outside, if you like. Then on the inside you have to think about things like, well how much of my business is in my head and how much happens because I just know what to do as opposed to being written down? And that’s why I recommend people start to, for the key parts of their business, start to consider what are called standard operating procedures. So, what are the, you know, if a customer contacts you, what are the set of things you normally go through? If you’re working with a client or doing the billing, how does that get done? What are the standard procedures? And having those written down, will make a huge difference. So that is a, frankly, a significant job. So, it’s something you kind of do gradually over time rather than trying to get that at a week or something. But in the longer term, especially if you’re a growing business, it’s really, really important, especially as you start to perhaps outsource more work or have third parties doing things or more staff and so forth.
[JOE]: Yeah, I think it’s something that is really important to kind of underline because whether or not it’s just for when someone passes, that idea of how much of your business is in your head, your ability to scale and grow is severely limited if you don’t have those systems in place. And so, when I had my counseling practice before I sold it, one of the biggest things when I sold it was it was fairly automated. I was putting in 15 minutes a week into it other than my own clinical work, which is down to about a session or two a week. And so, to be able to say to the new buyer, “I’m not really involved in this. This business just makes money.” They said, “Okay, that’s great. You know, I want to pay you for that business.” And so, there’s some resources I think are super helpful in regards to that if people are looking for them.
The book Clockwork, by Mike Michalowicz is a great book. He talks about how if you can’t take a month off from your business, you would have given yourself a job instead of a business. And so, when I interviewed him for the podcast, we’ll link in the show notes to whatever episode that was, he and I were both about to leave for four weeks from the business. And so, to me that’s a great way to say, “Okay, you’re building a business, not a job.” Also, Jeremy Zug is now on our team of consultants and he is amazing with kind of lean manufacturing approaches to systematizing things. He’s the owner of Practice Solutions, but he’s now also a consultant with Practice of the Practice.
So, if you want to kind of get to that scaling and get some handholding along the way, you can apply to work with him at So, I just wanted right there Patrick, to kind of give some clear resources for people that are saying, “I want to do that, but I don’t have any clue how to do it.” And I’m sure you have some extra resources as well.
[PATRICK]: Yeah, I think, it’s clearly a subject close to your heart, Joe. So absolutely, or they say that like great ones. It’s perfect. Very good. There’s one more aspect of business I’d like to mention if I can.
[JOE]: Yeah, please do.
[PATRICK]: And that’s intellectual property. That’s the stuff that you think you own.
[JOE]: How many thinks do you think you own.
[PATRICK]: Well yeah. Let’s suppose you, I don’t know, you get a third party to set up a domain name and a website for you. Unless you’ve checked, they might want to set it up under their own name. A lot of times that happens and the time that comes to light is when you pass on or the business is transferred. It’s who actually owns your blog posts, who owns the contents of your website, who owns some of the marketing material, who owns your domain name. And making sure that stuff is actually owned by your company is so important to the longevity of your business. It can cause untold problems if it’s not.
[JOE]: Oh, I’m so glad you bring that up. We started doing the Done for You Podcasting for people, in late 2019. And one thing that I stood very firm on was how much I wanted us to be a support to people and not like a lot of these kind of podcasting consultants are, where they have all of the feed and all the hosting and to undo it is so difficult. And so, we even have our clients, they buy the intellectual property for the music for their podcasts, they set up the hosting there, it’s going through their credit card from the very beginning. That allows them to have us just be a support so that it’s very clear that they own all of their content and, you know, it’s just too bad that there’s so many slimy businesses out there that don’t have that approach, that if someone’s paying you to set it up, that it should be there.
[PATRICK]: Yeah. Absolutely right. And sometimes it’s just ignorance. I mean, somebody, even a staff member in a company will set a domain name up and put their own name against it and then they leave.
[JOE]: Who owns [crosstalk] from 1994. Oh man. Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s probably more ignorance than anything intentional.
[PATRICK]: Yeah.
[JOE]: Well that’s great. So, I’d love to kind of move towards a kind of landing this interview a little bit. You know, Patrick, one of the final questions I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[PATRICK]: I’d want them to know, not to shy, well simple as anything, not to shy away from end of life planning. Whether you figure you’ll live for three months or 30 years or 60 years. It’s something, yeah, I don’t, when I say it Joe, it sounds silly, but some people somehow think that talking about death makes it more likely to happen. And when you, it sounds like that, it sounds really silly, but that goes on in people’s heads all the time and stops the conversation when it could be happening. So, I’d say don’t be afraid of facing up to your mortality. Have the conversations and do the planning. Because a lot of what, you know, a lot of what I do and I teach to cover when you go through it, it’s common sense. It’s nothing crazy. It’s all sense. There’s nothing absolutely difficult, difficult. But people don’t think about it. Does that help?
[JOE]: That is so helpful. Patrick, what’s the best way for people to connect with your work and to learn more about the different things that you offer?
[PATRICK]: Yeah, so my website is So, the best, if you can go straight to the homepage there, there is an offer set up for people on your show. There’s, which you can put in the show notes, if you’d like to, Joe, where there’s a special offer for people who listen to the podcast. But just by home page you’ll be able to link to any and all of the resources I have available.
[JOE]: Awesome.
[PATRICK]: I’m currently about to launch and it’s literally just about to go off the blocks. In fact, by the time your show airs it will be available; is a [inaudible 00:22:44] to not do your end of life planning course that takes you through everything you’re going to need. All the checklists, all the materials are there, when you could do it yourself and when you go to a specialist.
[JOE]: That’s so awesome. Well Patrick, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[PATRICK]: Oh, Joe, it’s been fantastic. Thank you very much.
[JOE]: So, go take some action. Make sure that you are doing these things that you know, Patrick and I talked about, and last week, Jay, to really think through what it is that we’re doing for our business, for our families, for our loved ones out there, issues that we maybe don’t think about a lot.
And also thank you to Therapy Notes, the best electronic health records that’s out there., use promo code [JOE] at checkout to get two months for free. And if you’re a Next Level Practice member, you’re going to get an even better deal as well. Just let us know because they don’t give that promo code out because just so darn valuable. Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing week. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professionals. If you want a professional, you should find one.