Thursday, October 25, 2012

To assume makes an ass out of "u" and me

Sorry for the language. I should probably just apologize for this entire post now before I even write it. I told you this was ugly. Now you are going to see why.

We are going through some stuff. Some tough stuff that gets tougher by the minute. Unfortunately, this toughness technically has to do with money. It's not the cancer kind of tough. It's not the losing your job or your home kind of tough. It's actually on the very low end of the tough stuff totem pole. Unless you factor in that a death is involved.  I have always struggled with what's hard for me may not be hard for the next person. What seems unbearable for me is a walk in the park for you. But, at the end of the day I believe in feeling what you feel. Even if what you feel seems like it should be minor when really it isn't.

I believed in my dad. I trusted him to a fault. I knew he was smart and made good choices. That was all before he passed away. Now I know a different man. A man who would knowingly leave his children out of his will. A man who would knowingly trust someone who didn't have his children's best interests at heart. That man is so foreign to me. The most unfortunate part is that maybe I didn't really know that man like I thought I did.

It's hard to live a regret free life. If you're doing it I would love to know your secret. I want to share a massive regret that I have. I regret that I believed he would make responsible and educated decisions for the future of his family. Most of all, I regret not making sure he was going to do just that.

It's astonishing to realize the power you might have had after you have had the chance to have it. Today I understand fully the power I have to not only do the right thing, but to leave my family feeling like I did the right thing. It's an overwhelming power that I am learning most people shove under the rug. Most people assume it will work itself out or be taken care of over time. Most people are very wrong.

I posted this status on Facebook today:

"Feeling so stupid and angry today. Please, if you do nothing else today consider speaking to your loved ones about what will happen if they pass. Know every last detail. Ask hard questions. Be informed."

After posting this I got a handful of messages asking that I be more specific. People were wanting to know how to avoid the situation I am in. I can't answer that for you. What I can tell you is what I think you should ask and know before you find yourself in the situation that I'm in.

First and foremost know this. You are someone's child. You see your parents in one way for so long that when you see them in another way it can completely change who you are. They have secrets. They have a past. They are not perfect and they have kept things from you. The sooner you know that the better equipped you will be to do the hard things like ask these questions.

As a disclaimer I should note that my parents are divorced. While I still think these questions are beyond applicable, take that part of it into consideration. That is where my experience is coming from.

My second disclaimer is that I am not a lawyer or anywhere near proficient in matters of law. Therefore, there are laws involved in a great deal of this. Just know your rights. I still have no idea what mine are.

1) Do you have a will? What kind of will exactly? Who is the executor?

2) Who is your lawyer? What is his name and phone number? And, if you change lawyers please contact me immediately and let me know the new information.

3) If you have a will or trust who are the beneficiaries? Are they outright beneficiaries or is there an ordered list where the first is primary and if something happens to them the next is primary and so on? If so, what exactly is that order and who is on the list? (This could easily be asked about anything from the actual will/trust to life insurance, retirement, etc.)

3) What is included in your will? Did you include every last thing or just the big stuff like house, car, etc.?

4) Do you have a plan for funeral arrangements? Do you want a funeral? If so, what do you want to take place? This is tough one. But, funerals are astronomically expensive. Unless you (or your family) have gobs of money laying around you should ask this one. Plus, in the event of an unexpected death you will not know up from down. At least know the basics of what the deceased would have wanted.

5) If I, your child, am not the executor or a beneficiary (I know, CRAZY of course) will I be able to access your will or trust when you pass? If something happens to your beneficiary (assuming it's not me) what happens then?

6) Of course, it may seem silly to list out personal possessions and say who gets what. However, when you are grieving the last thing you want to be doing is having a discussion with your sibling over who gets what because it wasn't outlined properly. If there are things that may seem of importance such as antiques, jewelry, photo albums, etc. ask what the plan is for those things. Make them decide so you don't have to. You can decide those things for your own children/family. Everyone gets a turn.

7) This is the biggest one. Make sure to ask why/how the answers to all of these questions came about. You may not agree with decisions/answers, but I believe you have a right to an understanding of them. You have a right to that closure.

8) Lastly, you must talk about debt. Debt makes things that are already ugly get way uglier. Again, unless you have a money tree in your backyard you do not want to be surprised by these things.

I think that's it for now. I'm sure now that we are headed down this road I will come up with more.

Being that my parents were divorced and my dad was remarried I feel that I must say this. You must ask these questions every couple of years. The lawyer could change. The house could be sold. The will could leave everything to a person you hardly know. Always be informed. Do not assume or you will feel like an ass.

This is my public service for the day. Oh wait. It's hump day isn't it? How ironic. Okay, my shout outs go to my lawyer friends for the support, my family for the hand holding, and my friends for understanding the mess I am destined to be on our annual trip to St. Simons this weekend.

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