When my brother-in-law, who lived in New York City, died three years ago at the age of 92, he had left no instructions, no Power of Attorney, nothing oral or written for his only daughter. He had discussed nothing with her and her name was not included as beneficiary on any documents. Everything was only in his name and that of his wife who was living in a nursing home suffering from dementia. This left my 60-year-old niece with no idea of what to do, where to begin or to whom to turn for help. The problems began immediately when she discovered that there was no money available for her to pay for the funeral. And, from there the situation went down hill.
In a visit to New York some years before this I had mentioned to my brother-in-law that it might be a good idea for him to go through his files, sort through and throw out anything that was no longer current and get his affairs in order. "Yea, you're right, I'll start tomorrow." And then one day he ran out of tomorrows with nothing having even begun.
Sometime after the funeral I visited my niece in order to help her go through her father's files and to throw out anything that was no longer relevant. While doing this I found - rather ironically - a booklet entitled, "Making Things Easy for my Family, what they need to know about my belongings, business affairs and desires". Eagerly I opened it to see what he had written only to find that it was totally blank; he had written NOTHING. I made sure to bring this booklet back home with me, read all the way through it and began to fill it out. No way would I leave my children the way my brother-in-law left his daughter. When I phoned my niece recently she was still struggling with some unfinished business.
This whole situation became a real wake-up call for me; it may also be for some of you readers who, like my brother-in-law, have been procrastinating (I, too, was guilty), waiting for tomorrow.
And so the process began. I contacted my two children who took time off from work to go with me to the bank. We quickly found the right person and, after signing the necessary forms, their names now appear on my accounts. this enables them to take care of any financial situations in the event I may become incapacitated and no longer able to do so myself.
Then my daughter brought home the forms for creating a Living Will which we took to my doctor; it has been properly filled out, signed and submitted. One more item taken care of.
At about the same time I came across two articles which went right along with what we were doing. One of them mentioned the need for leaving behind for your family more than just silver and crystal and a stock portfolio, and the other stressed the importance of writing for each of your loved ones "A Letter to Remember" which should contain words of love and praise and gratitude as well as an apology for words said or deeds done which might have been hurtful.
I took these suggestions much to heart and when we were all together celebrating my 90th birthday I presented to each of my children, their spouses and to each of my six grandchildren a hand written "Letter to Remember" filled with love and praise, favorite memories, gratitude for all they have done for me AND an apology. The article specifically stated that while the family members had all been told these things numerous times, spoken words may be forgotten, written words would always be there and could be read and reread, and cherished.
As I have been doing every five years, my Last Will is currently being updated and foreign accounts are being checked to make sure my children are listed as beneficiaries.
I have been making numerous lists mentioning all the things they will need to know such as where to find important documents, whom to notify when the time comes, my last wishes, etc. I want to be sure that, when it might be too late, I won't think, "Oh, I wish I had told ........,I wish I had done........". I want to be able to leave this world without any regrets in the full knowledge that I had indeed, to the best of my ability, done everything to "Make Things Easy for my Family".