Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Final Gift

My dear friend was murdered on October 27, 2018 during the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh.  People have written much more eloquently than I about the feelings and emotions of this horrific day. This blog is not about my feelings.  This is about decision and action with a topic I feel strongly about.

One of the comforting actions my friend’s wife did was to follow the instructions he left for his funeral and burial.  This family had THE CONVERSATION.  The wife knew which funeral home, which cemetery, and what kind of service her husband wanted.  Certainly he had no way of knowing that someone was going to kill him.  He left home that Saturday morning as he usually did.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  When his wife heard about the shooting, she called him and couldn’t raise him.  Then she knew even before law enforcement showed up at her home.

She also knew that way back they tackled the hard conversation and she knew what he wanted to happen when he died.  They both thought they had many years to live before the actions needed to be carried out.  The challenge is—we don’t know what will happen in the next minute.  THE CONVERSATION IS like an insurance policy- you hope you never need it but when you do, you are glad it’s there.  So have that conversation with your family.  Give your family the opportunity to give you the final gift of carrying out your wishes. 

Let me know your thoughts. Share your experience with others.  While this is not necessarily a cocktail party conversation, it really could give depth to such chit chat.  I find most people either stop me in my tracks and tell me they don’t want to talk about it or they open up with sad stories from their past. Yet getting them to commit to having THE CONVERSATION with their own loved ones is difficult.  The more we talk about it, I hope the easier it will be for people to take action.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

More Work for the Widow

A recent story in the AARP Bulletin caught my eye.  The heroine had upgraded her computer and then couldn’t connect to the internet.  Her late husband had set up the system and she did not know the password and the answer to the “secret question”.  Note to self: -- add “secret questions and answers” to the list of passwords and usernames.

Our heroine eventually found a computer guy to help her get into her email – but this was with a price tag.  She also had to search for The File that she knew contained important information about their financial life however she was never told, nor did she ask, the file’s name.  She eventually located it.

After she filed the will for probate, she received phone calls from suspicious people because the estate process was advertised in the local newspaper.  The heroine was smart and did not fall for schemes.  Her son was wise to notify the credit card companies of his father’s death.  This meant that the heroine could not use the joint credit card anymore since the husband was the owner of the card and she was merely a user.  Reminder: always have a credit card in your own name.

The heroine wrote about a widow who had to sell her husband’s gun collection and she spend nearly a year locating the paperwork for each gun, then selling the guns and finally dealing with the proceeds as part of the estate. 

An interesting bit of information in the story: when she called her auto insurance agent to tell him of the passing of her husband, she was told her premium would be increased as a single driver; married couples sharing a car are apparently less of an insurance risk. 

These anecdotal incidents continue to focus on the need to “get your stuff in order”.  Make a date with yourself to “just do it”. 
Send me an email and tell me how you are going about organizing your important hard copy and digital papers.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Is there safety in a Safety Deposit box?

If you are in Pittsburgh, you may have been following the story of a woman who needed to get into her deceased mother’s safety deposit box.  She needed the original will; the bank needed proof that the woman was indeed authorized.  This was a Catch-22 since the will was the proof that she was authorized.  She sued and the bank gave her authorization to access the box a month after her mother died.  The suit against the bank has been dismissed.  The woman can now move forward with her role as the executor.

While the bank is looking into changing its policies, the bottom line for now is: don’t put the original copy of your will in your safety deposit box. 

Please share this blog with friends and family and let me know if you are using the template I created to keep track of important information.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


With news headlines of evacuations and impending flooding and snow storms in the not too distant future, I am rethinking my emergency plan.

I have had several gallons of water stored in the basement for several years.  Is it still safe to drink? 
According to a quick google search, the water, if unopened, is safe to drink even beyond the expiration date.  But don’t take my word, google it yourself because there are trade-offs and you have to do what’s best for you.

Here are some other tips from Consumer Reports if you have to evacuate: 

-Pre-Pack a “go bag” – meds, food, water, plastic bags including size appropriate sized bags for electronics, flashlight, phone/ charger, laptop or tablet/ charger, battery-powered or hand cranked powered radio, car charger, power strip, cash in small bills, and a flask drive with copies of insurance policies and other financial information.
.       -Charge your electronics before you leave and of course, remember to pack both the device and the charger.
3       -Conserve electronic power- decrease brightness on the screen, go into a battery-saver mode, turn off WiFi on the road.
4       -Back up your files to the cloud or to a physical hard drive before you leave.
5      - Establish a social media plan as a meet up place for the family.  For example, Facebook or Twitter.  GroupMe or What’s App. 
6       -Set up an ICE function on the phone for emergency contacts.  (I’ve talked about this in a previous blog.)
7       -911 continues to be a viable emergency service though it can get overwhelmed.  If you are on hold, continue to wait because once you hang up and call back, you “go to the back of the line”, so to speak.
.       -If you have time, take photos or videos of the rooms in your house- open drawers and closets, too.  Come insurance claim time, this documentation will come in handy.
9       -Take the time to move outdoor furniture, plants and toys to a protected area.  Think about what items on your property could become a missile with high winds and then store these things appropriately. 
.        -Brace every opening- not just sand bags to prevent water from getting in, find something to brace the garage door.  When the calm air inside meets the whirlwind outside, a depressurization can occur and the house can collapse.
1   -Close all interior doors to reduce the overall pressure on the roof.
.      -Elevate all appliances
1    -Roll area rugs and stand them vertically, otherwise they act as sponges.
.     - If you can safely do it, turn off the water and electric power to your home if you have to evacuate.

The Department of Homeland Security‘s web page has more information about handling evacuations:  go to https://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/prepare-my-family-disaster, and click on Start Here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


The Elder Law column in the June 24, 2018 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was devoted to the lack of communication between parents and adult children or between adults and friends.  The statistic quoted was “it’s been estimated that as many as one third of over 75 million people who are between 52 and 70 are without children.  And some people don’t fully trust their children ...including their spouses.”  Sad.  So whom do you trust?  A lawyer?  Then who is responsible for telling the lawyer you are incapacitated or dead? 

These are some of the questions outlined in the article:
Who are your doctors?
Where is your list of prescriptions in case of an emergency?
Where is your medical history?
Where is your list of contacts (personal, professional, organizations)?
Who has access to your digital and hard copy records?
Where is your will and other estate plans?
Have you named someone to act on your behalf and didn’t tell them about this role?
Have you made funeral arrangements?  Where is the paperwork?
Where is your living will?  Have you discussed your decisions with those who will have to make the ultimate decisions?

And here’s another secret to decide on—family history.  Do you tell your children they are adopted?  That they were conceived via a sperm or egg donor?  That their mother/father is not their biological parent because or rape or an affiar?  Whew.  Major secrets.  And this can be enlightening and devastating at the same time.  Feeling loved and lied to at the same time may be the foundation for quality discussion, especially before a loved one and the one who told the lie dies.  I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer in this case though understanding one’s heritage and genetics in today’s world is important. 

My blog is about putting all the information in one place and giving that location to a trusted family member or friend.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Write Your Own Obituary

A few months ago an article appeared in the local newspaper describing the author’s decision to write her own obituary.  This process is related to an ethical will since the writer must delve deep into his/her own psyche and decide what is relevant to discuss.  The author had some funny stories about her early life as well as stories about her professional life.  While she published it in a newspaper, she also made a copy and put it with her important papers so that her family would find it and use it when the time came.  Note:  The author is probably middle aged and will have many years to rethink her words.

 She mentioned she did not want a photo with her obit.  While pictures are eye catching when scanning the obits in the paper (yes, I still read a hard copy of the newspaper) I have also indicated to my family that I do not want a photo to appear.  If I were to select a picture of myself from BG (before grey), my grandchildren and maybe someday, great grandchildren, would not recognize me.  And if I were to select a picture AG (after grey), I would look old and not the person I have in my mind as who I am. 

The idea of writing one’s obituary is intriguing.  I’ve heard the exercise is used in some writing classes.  It would be an interesting conversation to sit down with family and friends and create one.  What do others remember or value about you?  Do I have the courage to do this?  No, I don’t think so…yet.  As I get older, I get more daring!  What about you? 

Photo: Robert of Fairfax 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Digital Will

We all know about wills and power of attorneys; we don’t all know about ethical wills and digital wills.  I’ve blogged about ethical wills and today I want to draw your attention to a digital will.
Many of the points discussed in an online article are already in my template.  Here’s what Ken Colburn of Data Doctors wrote on April 5, 2018—
.                Make a list of your accounts and devices

               Write down passwords for sites and for devices.

              If you have a website, write down the passwords and any identifying info needed to access the site

4              Assign someone to be responsible for the accounts, website and devices.  This may be one person or several.  You can also include your wishes about what to do with the website or account. 

5.            Assigning someone to monitor your email account is critical.  Just think of the amount of mail you receive daily.  While most of it could be considered “junk”, I’ll bet there are some that would be important for your heirs.

6              Google has an Inactive Account Manager.  I was able to go into settings and select a manager if my account was to be inactive.  Https://goo.gl/sVJgTj.  I went to Personal Info & Privacy, Control your Contents and then Assign an Account Trustee.   Perhaps other systems have something similar.

7              Facebook also has a legacy contact.  I set up a contact last year.  You can search on Facebook for “Memorialization Request”.  The individual being memorialized must appoint a legacy.  To do this, follow these instructions:
1.     Click https://scontent.fagc3-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.2365-6/851557_364200877036449_574807949_n.gif?_nc_cat=0&oh=04ae3225bd1e5da00175fd204f3dbc1a&oe=5B960027 in the top right of Facebook and select Settings
2.     Click Manage Account
3.     Type in a friend's name and click Add
4.     To let your friend know they're now your legacy contact, click Send

All this info is great- if we take action.  Otherwise it is merely an exercise in procrastination.

How are you going to take action?  Share…