Saturday, January 27, 2018

Another Year. Another Birthday. More Decisions.

1/17/1018    Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

At my age, birthdays aren’t as much fun as they used to be. In fact, they can be downright depressing. This process of getting older and aging gracefully is serious business. My recent birthday was particularly sobering. I’m not 80 years old yet but I’m sure looking at it. Instead of a fancy dinner, cake, ice cream and balloons celebration, I find myself saying, “Let’s just go to a late lunch so we can be home before dark!”

I am, however, still looking at the future but it looks a whole lot different than when I was 12, 24, 36, or even 66 years old. Instead of singing “Happy days are here again,” I look in the mirror and somewhat incredulously say, “What happened?”  Some say that age is only a number. The mirror disagrees.

The following quote reminds me that time marches on but I still have work to do: “No one gets out of this world alive, so the time to live, learn, care, share, celebrate and love is now.” To those words, I would add…it’s also time to plan for the inevitable end of life changes because these years are more complicated the beginning!

A “normal” Biblical life span was about 70 years. Today, an average life expectancy in the 21st century, ranges from 76.4 years for a man to 81.2 years for a woman (subject to change). That means that some of us will miss the target and others will be over-achievers. (It’s also a reminder to tell our loved ones often that we love and appreciate them.)

One of the ways we can do that is by letting our families know how we want to be remembered. There is so much stress at the time of a loved one’s passing that the least we can do is to put together a packet of information about ourselves that will spare them a world of grief: Birthdate, birthplace, places we lived, marriages, children, jobs, etc. You may think that everyone knows these things but you would be surprised at what a mystery your early life is to most of your family.

 Finn John, my long-time editor, mentor and friend asked me several times to write a column on obituaries but I procrastinated. Then, my mother died and I was tasked with writing her obit. How does one sum up a lifetime of living in a few words? It was no easy task. She was an only child and died at the age of 94. She had also outlived most of her peers and relatives.

Clearly, neither I nor my siblings knew as much as we thought about this woman we called mother. Fortunately, my Aunt Kathryn was still alive and able to direct me to the correct information. i.e. I thought that mother was born in Butterfield, Missouri. No, she was born in Duenweg, MO. Oops! Putting in the wrong birthplace could have confused generations to come.

Putting together mother’s obituary inspired me to write the requested do-it-yourself obit columns. My husband and I followed the advice and wrote our own obits. They are now safely filed on my computer. Then we had to bite the bullet and let the family know how we wanted our “stuff” distributed—A Will or a Trust? We decided to go with a revocable living trust, a will, advanced directives and powers of attorney. Ugh. There are lots of do-it-yourself kits for this process but we went to our attorney and said, “Help!”

It was hard for us to wrap our brains around some decisions —how do you chose one person over another to be “in charge”? Carefully.  But now that it’s done, no one should worry and wonder about our wishes. Although they are subject to change. Our process consisted of decisions on such things as:
1.    A Trust, a Will or both?
2.    Appointing someone(s) to be alternate, successor trustee.
3.    Appropriate document information.
4.    How property will be dispersed.
5.    Health Care Directives.
6.    Anything else that is important to you.
7.    Signing the documents and getting them notarized.
8.    Storing the trust document safely.
9.    Reviewing the documents periodically.

Our decisions were all made many years ago. Now we’re re-thinking some of the things that seemed crystal clear then. As we have aged and our needs have changed, old decisions need to be re-evaluated and prior decisions updated. People move. Life changes. That’s why periodic review is necessary.

So how to sum this all up? Well, I know that getting this legal stuff done is a pain in the tush. But it is important. But if you are over 65 years of age and haven’t gotten your thoughts down on paper don’t delay any longer. Begin today. You’ll be glad that you did and you can get on with living the rest of your life in joy and peace. Can I get an Amen?

P.S. Be sure and tell someone where all the important stuff can be found!

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