52 FEATS – NUMBER 30 (Getting My Affairs in Order)

29 Jul

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

UPDATE (Friday):

Well, I’m just about finished with getting everything in order:

1) My will is still good.  It’s not very old, and we haven’t changed our minds about who will get our kids when we die, or about who we want to take care of our estate (i.e., our giant mountain of bills).  So nothing to do there – it goes back into the safe.

2) I finished filling out an advance directive.  I printed out the one specific to Texas from the website www.caringinfo.org.  It was pretty complicated to read at times, but it basically boiled down to a few key points: who do you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself (my husband, with my parents as back-ups), do you want your body to be kept alive even if there’s no chance of you recovering (I don’t), and do you want to donate your organs (hell yes I do).  I just have to either get it notarized or have 2 witnesses sign it (one cannot be the person who will make the decisions about my health once I’m gone, nor can it be anyone affiliated with the doctor or hospital where I might be).  Then I’ll stash the original in my safe and send a copy to my parents.  It looks like that’s all there is to it.

3) I almost forgot – yes, I have a life insurance policy.  It’s not much, but I don’t want to spend any more money per month than I absolutely have to, so I’m not changing it.  It will be enough to pay for my cremation and memorial buffet, with some left over for lots of tissues, since I know all of you will miss me!

At least I know that if something happens to me, I can still have a say in what happens to my body and my children.  I suppose that’s the best that anyone can do.

ABOUT FEAT NUMBER 30:

What a week it’s been.  After fighting cancer for almost 4 years, a friend of mine passed away last Tuesday at the much-too-early age of 41.  On the same day, my great-aunt, who was 93, also died.  Hers was a very different story, of course – she was very old and had told everyone she was ready to go for the last few years.  But both people had one advantage over most of us: they had enough time and advance notice to get their affairs in order.  Wills, funeral details (down to the dress my great-aunt was buried in), bequeathments – everything was decided.

And then there’s the haunting story of Shannon Stone, who recently died from injuries he sustained when he fell over a railing while catching a ball at the Ballpark in Arlington.  I’m sure everyone knows about this story, so I won’t go into details about it.  Let’s just say it was a freak accident that demonstrates how little control anyone really has over their destiny.  You may be diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live, but what if you’re hit by a bus tomorrow?  What if the time you think you have – the time we all assume will be there – just doesn’t happen?

This week, I’m going to “get my affairs in order,” as the saying goes.  I have a will, but I haven’t reviewed it in quite a while.  I need to make sure everything is accurate and up-to-date, especially with regard to my children.

I also want to make sure my loved ones – and not just my husband – know what my wishes are in the event of my death.  (For the record: I’d like to donate every scrap of organs or tissue that anyone might be able to use, and cremate the rest.  Have a memorial service if you want, just make sure there’s a buffet.)

I’m also going to fill out an advance directive, also known as a living will.  In case you’ve never heard of one, here is the definition according to Wikipedia:

An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, are instructions given by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity, and appoints a person to make such decisions on their behalf.  A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment.  Another form authorizes a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, where someone is appointed by the individual to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.  People may also have a combination of both.  It is often encouraged that people complete both documents to provide the most comprehensive guidance regarding their care.

Apparently, you don’t need an attorney to draw up an advance directive – you can simply download one for your state from the internet, fill it out, and you’re good to go.  I’ll let you know how that goes once I do it this week.

Need help doing a will?  Don’t wait – and leave things to chance – just because you can’t afford an attorney.  There are websites (like http://www.legalzoom.com) where you can do a will on the cheap.  It’s better than not having one.

Hopefully none of us will need these documents any time soon, but we might breathe a little easier knowing we have them.  And if we can also make things easier for our families once we’re gone, that will be worth it.

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2 Responses to “52 FEATS – NUMBER 30 (Getting My Affairs in Order)”

  1. Lisa July 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Oh, Jen. Does this resonate with me.

    We have wills–dating to the ’90s, drawn up in Arkansas and without the addition of our son. Also, as our daughter has autism, we need to consider a special-needs trust for her. (I say “consider” because I’ve read conflicting advice on whether special-needs trusts are indeed a good idea.) But drawing up a will speaks to almost every insecurity I have as a parent…what will my kids do without me? Have I provided well enough for them. And…here’s a big one…who will serve as their guardian if Chuck and I both meet our end.

    UGH.

    Thank you for reminding me I NEED TO DO THIS.

    • Jen July 26, 2011 at 12:26 am #

      Those are huge issues! After Saturday’s funeral, I went out to lunch with a married couple who are good friends of mine. We started talking about wills – they don’t have one. Their son is 5, and they’ve been thinking about it his whole life, but they just can’t decide who to name as his guardian. They don’t trust anyone in either of their families to do the job. Of course, if they die without a will, their son WILL end up with a family member, and there will most likely be a huge fight over who gets him. Ugly and sad to think about for the child. These are tough – but necessary – choices to make sooner rather than later. Who knows? Later may turn into NEVER!

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