The following crossed my desk recently. The author gave me permission to share her story:
"Please alert people to something we're experiencing right now - having to clean up the mess of someone not naming more than one person as beneficiary on a life insurance policy. We are having an impossible time trying to get the funeral expenses paid for my sister and my mother. They died within four days of each other, and they left each other as beneficiary of their life insurance policies.
'If the person listed as a beneficiary dies, the insurance benefit goes into their estate.
'The problem is, neither of them had a will, either."
(Aside: This means that both estates, the mother's and the daughter's, will have to be probated by the Court, and the Court will decide who gets what. The process can be lengthy, and it can be expensive. The family might not see the funeral money for a while.)
"Also, please alert people to be sure that the person they choose to be their medical decision maker - the person who has Medical Power of Attorney - is willing to do what they would want done. Review the mental capacity of the appointed person regularly.
'My 85 year old Mother couldn't bring herself to honor my sister's Living Will that said she wanted to be allowed to go. The doctor wouldn't write a letter stating Mother wasn't capable of making these decisions for my sister, who was in a coma.
'So, my sister was put on life support, even though there was no hope that she would ever awaken or live a productive life. She lingered for months on a ventilator.
'My family and I wish we had thought about all these things sooner. We are taking a closer look at our own papers now."
She is soooo right.
Life insurance is something we all tend to forget about. When you started that new job, you made out your employer's insurance beneficiary papers on the first day. Have you thought about them since?
What about your Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney (you do have them, don't you?). If you've designated your spouse on one or both, what happens if you're in an accident together? Is there a secod person named who can step in?
If you made arrangements for your children when they were babies, are there things you should change now thatthey're older? Now that several years have gone by, would you still appoint the same people to care for your children in the event of a catastrophe?
Do you have a will? If not, some stranger in a black robe is going to be making decisions for you one day.
What about your parents? If one of them has passed away, has the survivor made the necessary changes to legal documents?
If one parent is in poor health or getting confused, is he or she still the only one legally appointed to make decisions for the other?
This doesn't really have anything to do with your age. Everyone over the age of 18 should give some thought to these questions, and then take action. Should you do something about it right now, before something goes tragically wrong?
© 2004 Molly Shomer, All Rights Reserved.
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