As a Change Your Life (personal coach) I recently taught a series of classes on “Self-Care.” While we usually think of that in terms of diet, exercise, and manicures, I decided to include a segment on areas most people choose to ignore until it is too late to have their wishes followed. Anyone can get into a car accident. Everyone is subject to the strange and destructive weather forces we are experiencing. Life happens. Be prepared for the unexpected.
One of my dearest young friends (and former employee) celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bit of alcohol. That drink quickly became a fatal mix with prescription medications she was taking. It was a dramatic and tragic end. Fortunately, she had taken out insurance polices for her newborn twins and their older brother, which has helped the grandmother in assuming the burden of taking on these infants and grandson late in life. It also ensured their future education. Young or old – whether it is about finances, your computer files, your will, or whether you want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) – here are some things to think about.
I also can share an NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) exercise to help you get over the procrastination which usually prevents our taking action. (You’ll come out “smelling like a rose” and will feel SO GOOD when you have accomplished these things!)
Last Will & Testament
The first thing to know is that – what you’ve already done might not count! Sob! Here is an example. I wrote my own Last Will & Testament and a document for the person who has Power of Attorney over my medical decisions if I am physically or mentally incapacitated. I was so proud of myself for these accomplishments. Then, much to my surprise, I learned they will be discounted.
I live in Virginia. What I needed to do is to fill out the forms provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia, have them witnessed and notarized, and file them with the state. Those are the documents that will be recognized in the case of major illness or death. Those documents (and more options) can be found on the Commonwealth of Virginia website. This same site offers additional topics you may want to view. http://www.easyaccess.virginia.gov/planningfuture.shtml
Advance Medical Directive
Advance Medical Directive is a general term used to describe Living Wills, Appointment of a Medical Power of Attorney and organ donation. You use this tool to state your wishes in advance in case of certain circumstances. ~ Commonwealth of Virginia statement
Will (Also known as Last Will and Testament)
A Will is a used to leave your personal and real property to others after your death. If someone dies without a will, State law will decide how property is distributed. If there is no Will, your goods can be distributed to your relatives according to the law called intestate succession. If there are no remaining relatives, your property can be given to Virginia through a process called escheatment. ~ Commonwealth of VA statement
Escheat /ᵻsˈtʃiːt/ is a common law doctrine that transfers the property of a person who died without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in “limbo” without recognized ownership. It originally applied to a number of situations where a legal interest in land was destroyed by operation of law, so that the ownership of the land reverted to the immediately superior feudal lord. ~ Wikipedia definition
A Living Will “speaks” for you when you cannot speak for yourself. It helps others make decisions that you would normally need to make. Living Wills are very inexpensive, many times free, and do not require a lawyer. A Living Will allows you to choose now so that others will not have to make choices for you later. ~ Commonwealth of Virginia statement
If you don’t already have a lawyer who can review the documents for you, you might contact a company like Legal Shield. Doing this is a bit like buying insurance. You pay a monthly amount; and, when you need legal advice, you contact them. They either review your documents/case, or make a referral (internal or external) for big cases. I am not an Agent, but I can recommend someone to you, if you wish. Of course, there are other options, which you can research.
Who Is Supposed To Be The Executor of Your Last Will & Testament?
So, let’s pretend you have someone in mind. Perhaps it is an adult child, or your parent, or you business partner… whoever!
- Does that person KNOW you have designated him or her?
- Does that person have a conflict of interests in terms of wanting things and/or CONTROL of things you own?
- Is that person ethical and dedicated to ensuring that your wishes are upheld?
- Has that person agreed to this enormous, thankless, workload that could become a nightmare, if there might be family members or others who contest the will? In any case, the individual will be dealing with legal matters, courts, and voluminous paperwork.
- Who else can/will do it if they are unable or unwilling?
- Who is the backup to the backup?
- Is each designee mentally and physically capable of handling the complexities of the task? The task could involve selling property, paying bills, dealing with creditors, closing accounts before more bills pile up, etc.
- Does that person have a list of your accounts, passwords, people to contact?
- Is there a checklist of tasks they need to do? Did you give him or her a copy?
It is your responsibility to supply whomever you choose as Executor (each one) with the information in the next category.
People (Not Person) to Notify in Case of Emergency
Long before you need an Executor, you need to have an emergency plan. That plan must include a person to notify in case of emergency. But, have you ever really thought about that? How would a first responder, neighbor, or anyone else know who your designee is? What is that designee supposed to do when notified of your illness, injury, being held hostage by a deranged comic figure, or death? (Just checking to see if you’re paying attention.)
- Do you carry that person’s name and contact information with you at all times? (Suggestion: put it in your wallet or whatever you always have with you – along with a list of your allergies or other conditions which could affect medical treatment.) It’s also wise to have that information clearly labeled and on the desktop of your smart phone, computer or other digital device.
- Does that person live in the same area you do? For example, I need a person who has Power of Attorney for medical decisions and/or an Executor. I also need someone who lives nearby AND HAS A HOUSE KEY to take care of my animals, so they don’t starve to death while people figure out what to do with/about me. (It’s helpful if the designee also has a copy of keys to vehicles.)
- Does that person have a complete list of names and contact numbers of people to notify about your situation?
- Your employer or employees
- Your family members
- Your bank or other creditors
- The possible caretakers of your animals in your absence
- Where will you go if your home were destroyed?
- What would happen to your animals?
- Do you have transport carriers or cages easily accessible?
- Can someone help you?
- Have you made living arrangements in advance?
- Do you know where possible shelters or safe places are, if no friends and relatives can help you?
- How would you get there and what would you take with you?
- Have you put the most critical belongings and papers in one place, so that you could quickly grab them and leave?
- What would happen to your animals?
That leads us to the next and related conversation about safe-guarding and having access to your most critical documents – even if you’re young, healthy, and won’t get hurt for a thousand years.
What Will Happen to Your Most Important Computer or Hard Copy Files?
You probably heard about the global ransom-ware attacks, in which hackers demand enormous financial payments in (untraceable) bitcoin to release your computer function and files back to you after they have frozen them. Even if you paid it, you may not get your files back, or they might do it to you again. Or,
Maybe you are a person who does not trust computers, and you pay all your bills by cash or by mailing checks. Again, where are copies of all your most critical and/or treasured documents, including credit card numbers, birth certificate, wills, etc.?
- At least weekly or monthly, back up computer documents on an external hard drive and/or on “the Cloud” with a trusted provider, such as that which handles computer security. (If you don’t know what an external hard drive is, ask me! I won’t think you’re dumb.)
- At least twice a year, take another step. Put that hard drive in a “safe place” other than your home or office, in case of a catastrophic emergency, such as a flood or house fire. How often you need to do this depends on how much you create on your computer and how confident you are in the “cloud” storage you are using.
- Set up on-line automatic payments of monthly bills, so that they are paid on time, regardless of whether you are on vacation, or ill, or otherwise unable to do it. You can schedule such payment through on-line banking or with most individual creditors to have a specified amount transferred from your banking account to the creditor on a specific date (which may be on or before the due date).
- Ensure someone knows of your emergency plan
- Set up Life Alert or some other emergency notification system if you live alone or in a remote area.
- Set up a Safe Deposit Box with your bank or other off-site storage for securing the originals or copies of your most critical documents.
I hope this little blurb will help you think about and plan to make your life and the lives of your loved ones easier. Let me know if you want to learn more about the “Procrastination Buster” NLP technique! Contact me also if you want to participate in my Change Your Life personal coaching or classes.
Do It The Write Way! Let My Fingers Do Your Talking!