Please make a will and get your affairs in order
Two days ago, my beloved sister in law – Stephanie, for those of you from my old blog, died suddenly and unexpectedly.
She was not old. She was only 61.
This could happen to anyone. TO ANYONE.
Stephanie is the only one of my in-laws I liked. I ADORED her. A warm, loud, welcoming Italian woman from South Philly, Stephanie (and her children) was the only one of Mr T’s relatives who embraced me (both figuratively and literally) when I met his family.
She is the only one who ever willingly and happily gave me food. I couldn’t cross her threshold without an offer of something to eat – pizzellas (from scratch), gravy (I felt very in the know when I learned that gravy is what South Philly Italians call spaghetti sauce), pretzels that her dad, whom I also adored, had brought with him from Philly.
But it wasn’t about the food. It was about her very being. She was the kind of person you want to be friends with. She was frank and open and funny and opinionated and fun.
Of all the people in this world to die, it had to be her?
It couldn’t be [any of a list of odious politicians and criminals, some of which overlap]?
She did not have a will.
Clearly, she thought she had time.
We all thought she had time.
I hadn’t even visited her for the past few years. Covid, for one thing.
But – we thought we had time!
It’s not like there will be some huge fight or drama because of the lack of a will. The law in her state is that her children will inherit (Stephanie and the kids’ dad divorced years ago), but there will be extra hassle.
Fortunately, Stephanie’s brother and his wife, who happen to be in professions that deal with wills and trusts, are ON IT and have already talked to a lawyer. They are also arranging the funeral and doing all the heavy lifting. I am so grateful for the kids’ sake. I have seen what happens when there isn’t a will and there’s a fight and it’s not pretty.
But make a will. Make it easy for the people you love.
And if you hate them all – make a will and disinherit them. Give them each a dollar and leave the rest to the Humane Society.
Make. A. Will.
Figure out what you want done with your body when you die. Make those arrangements: pay for your headstone, decide what it should say, pay for the plot, choose a coffin, choose the music for your service, call the medical school or the body farm about donating your body (that’s what Mr T and I will do).
FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR PETS.
Put your kids on your bank accounts and on your safe deposit box, arrange a meeting between you, your kids, and your financial advisor, make a spreadsheet of all your accounts and investments and passwords, organize your files (like – buy a file cabinet and make actual physical files by topic).
I read this article about the bureaucracy of death last week and there are some good recommendations in it as well.
I’m not trying to be a ghoul. But unless you are the Second Coming (and I bet you are not), you are going to die.
Stephanie’s kids will be OK because they have expert help from Stephanie’s brother and his wife and because other than the will, Stephanie was super organized. (She was a bookkeeper.)
But not everyone has that luxury. So please please please. If you are wondering what you should do today – should you go shopping? Should you clean the bathroom?
Do this instead:
- Make an appointment with a lawyer to write a will before the end of the year. Also do your POAs and your medical wishes – do you want a DNR?
- Start a list of all your accounts. Name of account, number, name of institution, website, phone number, how much money you have there (yes, this will change but for rough ideas)
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Pensions (hahahaha)
- Social security?
- Bills (phone, internet, utilities)
- Credit cards
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- If you don’t already have a file box or cabinet, ask for one on Buy Nothing or buy one and make a file for everything.
- The things listed above
- Mortgage/deed to the house
- Car title
- Social security cards and statements
- Current year tax information/receipts
- Credit card receipts and statements
- Utility bills
- Phone bills
- I keep my investment statements and bank statements and taxes in binders because I don’t have enough file space, but you might have room. I want everything on paper because I don’t trust institutions and I want proof of my money. 🙂
- Etc etc etc – remember that your executor is going to have to keep things going until your house is sold
It’s one of the best gifts you could give your family.
Also – what did I miss? Please share your own advice.
I will miss Stephanie so much. I loved her. I loved her so much.
Before you make a will today, go call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Because you never know. You just never know.