Planning Ahead

Last week, I received a text from my dear friend Paula. Paula and I met on our first day of high school and have remained good friends ever since. Even after she and her husband Dave moved to Arizona a few years ago, we have found time to keep in touch and get together regularly. Here is the text I received:

“I received a call on Sunday notifying me that my (65-year-old) brother was found dead in his condo the day before. I am heartbroken and overwhelmed. It was unexpected, and I spent the last few days trying to figure out what happened and how to move forward. We don’t even know if he had a will and haven’t found one, so are trying to find a probate attorney … and a realtor …”

Heartbreaking, for sure. When a dear friend or relative experiences a loss like this, you can feel helpless. I do not wish that on anyone.

And that is why, after reading this article, I copied and distributed it to my kids. “Three Documents Your Kids Should Sign Before Leaving for College” was a perfectly timed reminder that I want to shout from the rooftops to all my friends and family that the greatest gift you can give to your family and heirs is to plan ahead.

It is relatively easy to create a:

1.      Durable power of attorney

2.      Advanced health care directive

3.      HIPAA authorization

Yes, it forces you to think about your own mortality. I say this from personal experience, as it took me a woefully long time before I created my own living trust (my kids were already grown), which included a durable power of attorney, my advanced health care directive and HIPAA authorization.

It was unexpected three years ago when my mother Frieda fell and broke her leg at age 95. Thankfully, my mom was very thorough and responsible—she had already given my sister Jackie and me all of these documents for her, plus we were already signatories on all her bank accounts. At first when she approached us (more than 10 years ago) about adding our names to all her accounts and showing us all her home office files, it felt kind of creepy. Like, I didn’t want her to think that we wanted her to become incapacitated.

But, as usually happens, it was a freak accident that caused Jackie and I to “jump into action” and take care of everything for her.

So, how about you? And how about your kids? If your kids are college age, if something happens to them (like a car accident, drug overdose or other incident), without the above three forms, you will not be able to help them easily. And you will not have access to any of their accounts. And the same applies for you. If something happens to you, wouldn’t you want to have your spouse or family member be able to jump into action and know how to access all your passwords, direct your doctors, pay your bills, etc.?

The easiest way to do this is to locate a local estate planning attorney and pay a relatively small amount of money to get these basic documents in order. 

My wish is that you never have to experience what my friend Paula is going through. So, take action now to plan ahead.

Karen