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Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Cautionary Tale: Get Your Affairs In Order Now

If you’ve been avoiding preparing a will, or other estate planning directives, think again.

Sixty five percent of Americans do not have a will, and that can leave families and healthcare providers in a sticky situation.

Washington Post finance columnist Michelle Singletary‘s mother did not have any personal directives. When she was critically injured recently, her family was confronted with many decisions, made more difficult by the absence of written wishes.

Singletary joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the importance of being prepared for the worst.


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  • Frog

    Letter of instruction is a great idea. Even just a list of valuables is helpful. Some employers (like mine) provide a small life insurance policy that might get overlooked. The estimated value of any collectibles would be a good thing to include in that letter…many of those are sold at fire sale rates in estate sales.

  • Carol

    What a heart-breaking interview! Michelle I am so sorry that you’re going through this. We’re baby boomers with a college aged daughter and it would be awful for her to have to navigate this stuff. Thanks for sharing your situation. Prayers heading your way.

  • Di Anna

    This message needs more exposure. I’m 67, now a retired educator, andI have redone my ‘affairs’ 3 times. Having cared for debilitated parents, being divorced twice, and a single mom, I learned before I was 50 how important these issues are. The documents ALL people need are The Will, The Living Will, The Health Care POA, The Legal (or Durable) POA, and a letter of instruction to a family member or friend as to where these documents are to be found.

    As to the cost, there are legal agencies that provide these services at reasonable costs. And it’s well worth the cost. I wouldn’t trust the online forms to be acceptable, but if that’s all you can do, I would do that, as opposed to nothing.

  • G from Philly

    I just posted this link to Facebook to spread the word. Thank you so much Michelle. it’s amazing how hard it is to convince those we love to get their papers in order. Last month we finally got them done for my parents (76 & 80). This may sound odd, but it makes me feel better to know that someone as knowledgeable as you found it challenging to get your mother to get papers in order.

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • A from Cincy

    Another note Michelle missed, when developing those documents. Keep in mind what she said about no one knowing where they are. It gets even more complicated when there is a house fire, like in her instance. The documents do you no good when they are in the fire proof safe that is buried under half a burnt out, condemned house you can not get into, or the safe is sitting in 1 foot of water. We witnessed this tragedy for our neighbors. All the documents and safety deposit box keys were in a place you could not get to for days after the fire.

  • M from Columbus

    Please know, Michelle, that you and your family are in my prayers. Robin, your interview was terrific, and I’d just like to add a couple of points. In doing an estate plan, please, please, please don’t forget about your pets. Nearly a half a million pets are euthanized every year because their owners died without making plans for their care. Also, in the don’t-wait-until-it’s-too-late category, take a rainy afternoon and use it to inventory the contents of your house for insurance purposes. In the aftermath of a fire, flood, or other disaster, recollection of the contents of your home may be severely compromised. Just inventorying a closet alone, I was amazed at some of the items I never would have remembered if I had to recreate the contents from memory. Thanks again for a great story.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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