16th of a series
“You can’t bring a U-Haul truck with you
when you go to that wide blue yonder.”
BEFORE you begin checking off the fun, carefree and wonderful items of your personal bucket list, you have to put first things first. This means putting things down in writing.
Yes, facing the final scenario of your personal end times is as pleasurable as pulling teeth.
If you can, you will be placing this in the back burner of your TO DO list forever. But there’s no such thing as forever on earth. Putting this off just puts the disposition of your estate in jeopardy. Particularly for men, facing one’s mortality is no easy task. Curiously, women seem to naturally have vast amounts of emotional reserves to face this.
Death is not a matter of if but when. No one really takes pleasure in outlining the final chapter. The final documents you write compose the epilogue of your personal story. In the epilogue, you will be referred to in the past tense as the decedent who has decided while alive that so and so will receive such and such, as written in the document. DEEP SIGH…..
This means getting these documents done first before anything else in your bucket list, that is, BEFORE you decide to get that face lift, write your memoir, go sky-diving or go globe-trotting once the 2020 pandemic/scamdemic hoopla that placed the world on a retrograde orbit gets back on its normal track — planes flying once again and tourism booming. Damn social distancing. Even plants love to huddle together. Much more so with human beings… But I digress.
This means putting your thoughts and intentions in writing so that there is no confusion as to how you intend for events to happen even after you are no longer around to call the shots. This means deciding who gets what from your estate or your worldly possessions.
But life can be complicated and when there is bad blood among family members, the will can be a spiteful tool of getting back at a disrespectful or disobedient family member. You get to disinherit or leave just a dollar to the scoundrel just to make a point from beyond the grave.
Or if you want to be persnickety from beyond the grave and have your heirs jump through hoops, you can give out conditions that need to be fulfilled before one gets something of value from you. These are known as provisos. This is when the plot thickens. You need a lawyer for this.
This can mean you get to allocate in advance precious, valuable and even junkie stuff you have accumulated like the pack rat that you were over your lifetime.
Or you can simplify. Indulge in the fun of giving away stuff over time, divesting early and handing stuff out like candy while you’re alive beginning with the ones who express genuine appreciation for the gifts you give.
For the big things, you need to have several documents on hand and at the ready, JUST IN CASE. These might include having a Revocable Living Trust if you own real estate; a pour-over will just in case you missed something of value among your assets in the trust; a medical directive and the medical record information release (HIPAA) form, short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This HIPAA document allows a patient to list the names of family members, friends, health care providers and other third parties whom the patient wishes to have their medical records available.
You can do some or all of this by yourself if you are so inclined to handle legal matters. It involves research and attention to detail. It is after all, a legal, binding document. Or you can get a reputable, experienced lawyer to prepare all these basic documents for you to make sure that everything is on the up and up with regards to the laws of the state where you reside. The lawyer is there to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.
From time to time, these documents may need to be updated as the need arises. Births, deaths, marriage and divorce might affect decisions and these should be reflected in the documents.
A good lawyer can also explain the ramifications of the decisions you make. Particularly for those with several real estate assets in their portfolio, having a Living Trust is essential. In the case of the untimely demise of a person without a Living Trust, properties will have to go to probate court. The time and expense of having to go through probate proceedings are two of the biggest arguments in favor of having a Living Trust.
Unfortunately, having a will does not prevent the properties of the deceased from having to go through probate.
There are other reasons why people particularly in their mature years ought to consider having these final documents on hand and at the ready. I suppose the best reason is that while one is of sound mind and sound body, one has thought things through, took the time and the effort to set everything down in writing and had these documents notarized and recorded officially. After all, no one wants unfinished business.
Somehow the act of doing all these helps one achieve a modicum of that elusive thing called PEACE OF MIND.
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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org