Monday, July 8, 2013

ESTATE PLANNING








By Diane Forrest

This is a subject many people don't want to talk about.  When my husband was alive he constantly wanted to discuss getting life insurance.  I didn't want to discuss it, feeling that if he knew it was there he would give up the will to live. Death was always on his mind, he would have dreams about it talk to his friend who worked at a funeral home, asked him endless questions and even wanted to observe how they got someone ready for burial. When we would be out he would invite people to his funeral, which I said was just wrong.

I on the other hand figured if I didn't discuss it, or changed the subject, that he wouldn't ever die and we would live happily ever after.  That didn't happen, as you know there are 2 certainties in life, death and taxes.  When my husband passed away it was completely unexpected.  My husband had been paralyzed by an accident at work, however he had no other medical problems, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, no heart problems or breathing problems.  He just couldn't move from his waist down.  He had been bedridden for 3 years and had developed sepsis and possible pneumonia.  There were no warning signs; he just couldn't wake up one morning.  The doctors and nurses did all they could to save him, but it was just his time to go.  His death not only left me in shock, but in financial distress too.  Not only did I lose my husband, I also lost my job the same day.  As a nurse, I was being paid by his insurance company to take care of him.  It was a real struggle to make it through that first year.  Trying to live without him, and paying the bills too.

I was also involved with his worker's comp case, which made things even more stressful.  Because of this active case, an estate had to be opened.  His worker's comp case finally settled in January of this year, however the estate battle is still ongoing, over 2 and a half years after his death.  I am now in a battle with his sons from previous marriage and it has been devastating.  It has caused me stress, anxiety and medical problems such as hypertension and depression.
This could have all been avoided had we planned properly for such an event.  No matter what you leave behind when you leave this world, someone will be there to fight over it.  Whether its family members, designated charities, lawyers, or the government.  

Some of the lessons I have learned are:
Don't assume.  Each state is different and the laws are not the same.  If you think that when you die everything goes to your spouse automatically, you could be wrong.
Have a signed will (a copy doesn't count).  You must have the original in a safe place.
If you cosign for any property, when one dies, the cosigner is still responsible for the debt.

Some necessary steps to take:
Make a will!!!  If you are single, married, have children or siblings.  Make clear instructions where you want your belongings to go.
Buy life insurance.  This is necessary if you want to protect your children or spouse from financial burden, and also to cover the expenses of your burial or disposition of your remains.
Talk to a lawyer and/or financial planner if your estate is large or complicated.
Don't wait!  You can't predict the end of your life well unless you take matters in your own hands.  My husband was only 52 when he passed away.  My brother was 23 when he was killed in an accident.  You need to prepare for those you leave behind.  Never assume that your family will not fight over what you have to leave.  Death affects people differently.  I would have never imagined I would be in a court dispute with my stepsons, but here I am.


My father was talking to his neighbor the other day, a man who is almost 49 years old.  He is married, has stepchildren, and grandchildren, siblings and in-laws.  My father asked him if he had a will.  He didn't.  He explained to him all the trouble I was going through and what his family was capable of doing, and encouraged him to talk to his brother-in-law, who is an attorney, and have a will drawn up as soon as possible to protect his wife and the property and possessions they own.
If you haven't made final arrangements for yourself...now is the best time to start your planning.  Don't wait until it’s too late!!!  Share with us some of your estate battles in the comment section below.
(Photos from Google) 

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