Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning

May day! Mothers Day a week away. It is finally time to air out the spring and summer clothes and begin that timeless tradition of Spring Cleaning! Mine began while searching for my resume, I found myself sifting through stacks of receipts, certificates and warranties from products I haven't had in over a decade. While rummaging through the several file cabinets in my home office I decided it was time for some serious paper recycling.

Cleaning out the three file cabinets of documents, product warranties, tax forms and my newspaper clipping files, I found our will. It was a simple will. At the time, we were traveling overseas and decided it was good time to put our affairs in order. In our mid 30's, we had few ducks to put in a row, but our son was very young and we wanted to be sure he was protected. Our daughters had left home to pursue their own lives and we felt they were too young to have to take on the responsibility of a young child. Our parents were approaching their 70's and the care of a young child, also seemed a burden to lay upon their aging shoulders.

My son is now in his 20's so I realized this was a document that needed a serious make-over. My parents put together their will several years ago, asking their seven prodigy to label things they wanted to keep once my parents had entered the pearly gates. It was fun to look back through the footprints of our childhood and memories that lead us to choose those things that would continue to make those moments precious.

My in laws, now close to 90 years old, recently put together a will after we discovered this was something they had never done. I know that in this day and age of litigation and probate courts, this seems hard to believe. Add my father in law's ever increasing decline to Alzheimers disease and you have the makings of a disaster. Somehow it marked the end of life to place a will on a to do list.

Paperwork! From cradle to grave, there seems to a trail of paperwork that follows us. We understand the need to update and upgrade our closets, furniture, cars and houses as we upsize and downsize our lives. For some reason, though the thought of detailing a last will and testament, is tantamount to sending an engraved invitation to the grim reaper. And yet, if we could stick around after the graveside service, we would witness the absolute chaos that procrastination has caused those we truly love most.

As you put the wool sweaters in moth balls, plant the lettuce in the garden and wonder if you can still fit into that bikini (or even dare to wear one!), make an appointment to draw a will and living trust. Many of the forms can be downloaded, some for free. Taking the time to engage an attorney is probably the best money you will ever spend. Every state has certain probate laws and adding misery to loved ones because a t wasn't crossed or an i dotted, will have you rolling in your grave.

And while you have the pen in your hand and the good intentions to protect all you have worked so hard to attain, get a power of attorney. In the new age of the god HIPAA, it has become crucial should something happen to you and you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Trying to help my mother in law with taxes and banking issues has been a nightmare without that power of attorney in place. We have spent more time, phone calls and aggravation, that one hour of paperwork would have eliminated.

Add a few pieces to your paper trail and put this on your to do list this spring. It may be the best thing you do for your family, and it will certainly help you to rest in peace. No pun intended. That's what a wise grandma would do.

No comments: