This might be my most boring post but it might also be my most important.
The cover story for consumer reports this month is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time. The example it gave was identical to mine. Without going into details, I’m talking wills, beneficiaries, guardians, and life insurance. I’ve talked to too many people that were like us or even worse. It’s a new year so this is a perfect time to get your affairs in order…here is what I learned from my experience.
Lance never took the above topics seriously. In fact, ironically, we did our first will just a month before Lance was diagnosed…8 years after our first child was born. That’s 8 years too late. I forced the issue in 2010. I remember sitting in our living room, our lawyer came to our house, it was December 2010 and Lance sort of thought it was a joke. He was in many ways appeasing me. He just never thought the worst would happen. I do not say this to criticize Lance at all, more to set the tone of how casual one can be about things that can actually happen. Do this for your loved one…make the process as easy as possible on the one who is left behind. Be really conscious whom you choose to be the guardians of your children, the beneficiaries of your assets and update regularly!!! Grief on it’s own is enough. To deal with unpleasant issues on top of it, is just plain hard and can be completely preventable.
Since my experience, I have learned we are not alone. I have talked to tons of people who don’t have wills, life insurance or guardians. I can not emphasize this enough…besides being a major hassle, it strains relationships. We’ve all heard the stories. Wills, guardians and beneficiaries change all the time. It’s super important to take these issues seriously. Consumer reports quoted 86% of people have not updated their wills and beneficiaries. That means that many of you reading are among those people.
In my case these things were never talked about once Lance was diagnosed. It was too painful. We were trying to stay positive. What message would I be giving Lance if on one hand I am his biggest cheerleader and on the other hand checking with him to make sure everything was in order? I just couldn’t do it. These topics are MUCH EASIER if you do them when you are both healthy. I did what I could do on my own making sure things were in order but some stones were left unturned and it was messy afterwards. Small oversights can have a big impact.
I also wanted to touch on life insurance policies. Figure out what your life costs and how much you reasonably could live on minus your spouse. Certain dollar amounts might seem like a lot more than the reality…especially with inflation. Talk to a financial advisor.
Also one last thing, have all assets: houses, cars, anything you own in both your names or in a living trust. You will avoid probate if you do this. That means a lot of time and money saved.
I have hesitated writing this blog because it brings up personal issues but I’ve also wanted to share my experience so people can do everything to prevent any hassles for the one left behind. I am redoing my will, going over it with a fine tooth comb and will update it every year if need be. I cannot stress these issues enough. It will save time, money, relationships, stress, arduous paper work and give you the time you need to focus on what’s really important should you ever be put in this position.
So in the words of my friends Kristin and Jon Hatch…”get ‘er done.”
PS: Consumer Reports article:
PPS: A timely article in the NY Times from yet another young widow.