Thursday, October 1, 2009

Where There's a Will

Do you all have wills? Thierry and I have been redoing ours. We had wills and medical powers of attorney (or is it medical power of attorneys?) drafted when we moved to Philadelphia. We knew we were committed to the relationship, and felt it was important to have things spelled out once we jointly owned property. I was especially concerned if one of us became suddenly ill.

It happened to a friend of mine and some difficult decisions had to be made quickly. Children were involved (from a previous marriage), but because everything was plainly spelled out, there were fewer problems. Not something that one should have to think about at the time a sudden illness or injury occurs.

My late husband and I had wills written when he was in the hospital with a terminal illness. The lawyer pulled it together in two days. It was a pretty frantic time as you can imagine.

Thierry and I chose to use an attorney rather than draft our own. I am sure we could have done this ourselves, and even more convinced we probably should have after re-writing what the attorney or his assistant obviously pieced together from other people's wills. I fully intend to let him know about this when we get the bill.

There's a lot more to think about than just who get what statue. Do you leave money to charity? What about family members? And then, how do you calculate amounts? What if you spend what you thought you were going to leave (meaning you have to monitor your estate regularly)? Do you set up trusts? If so, what are the tax implications and who do you pick as trustees? Then do you tell the trustees you selected them as trustees? Of course your attorney should advise you on all of this – ours has not been very helpful. I actually learned more from a friend who recently settled her father's estate.

I never was put off about creating a will - I always thought it was a good thing to do. Some folks think it is eerie, to plan for your death. Ohhh, I forgot to put in there what is to happen to my body when I pass on.... Do you put that in a will? Also, I want everyone to have a party and get good and drunk – should that go in as well? (Now you all know - make sure it happens!)

Wills just make death a little easier for those you leave behind.

I'm not going anywhere too soon (I hope), because these days have been very good, and I want to enjoy a bunch more, just want to be prepared.


Karen Kron said...

Yes, Mary... The plans for your body and funeral arrangements that you desire should be added because it removes any conflict that family members may have if they have different ideas/wishes for your burial. I have also helped my mother to create a "living will" as to the extent she should be kept alive if she can't speak for herself. I firmly believe that the more details that you spell out, the easier it will be for everyone else around you.

When these things weren't set up before my father's death, the consequences were disastrous! I think everyone was so wrapped up in their own pain and guilt and baggage, they couldn't see through to the love of a family! There is so much love in your family, but better to let your feeling be known!!

Love, Karen

Mary B said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences Karen. I think you are right - Lauren and Thierry may have very different ideas on funeral arrangements - and I know what I want - but then, funerals are for the living.

Lisa Ruff said...

We've had wills since our mid-thirties. We were going off-shore in a (relatively) small boat and thought it was a good idea. We had them signed, witnessed and notarized at our going-away party (we had a friend there who happened to be a notary) which people thought was weird, but I thought was appropriate. We up-dated them when we came back and it's time for another change or three: time changes everyone's lives and that means a change to the will. BTW: we did our own.

Yep, we've had the "what do you want done with the remains" conversation and it doesn't seem all that strange. I fear death, but I guess I can divorce myself from the results enough so it doesn't make me panic. We put in stuff about how the money should be used to dispose of us ("if we wouldn't spend it in life, don't do it in death"). I think you should put in a provision for a party; set the money aside and be sure it's done right (taxis for everyone?).

The division of our "stuff," especially money, is the hard part. since we don't have kids, we've left everything to our friend's kids. That causes problems because it's hard to find an executor who's not related and will not benefit (in one way or another) from the will, just to keep things on the up-and-up.

I think wills are good things to do. It helps you look at you current life and plan for the future. Introspective, but not morbid.