Estate Planning 101
by Susan Warren Utley
Previously published on An Army of Ermas 11/26/2010
Last week my husband attended a retirement seminar and returned home from work with a wealth of information on IRAs, health insurance options, and estate planning. That last item led to a discussion about who to trust to protect our assets if something should happen to both of us. The conversation involved such things as power of attorney, executors of the estate, and what should or should not be left behind to our beneficiaries. My husband’s focus was not with material possessions like who should inherit his watch or his twelve-piece collection of Holiday Budweiser steins, but with the importance of spending every dollar we earn and leaving nothing behind but a pile of credit card bills. I, on the other hand, had more pressing concerns.
While I gazed through the glass doors of my china cabinet, I realized that not only would my sister be the proud owner of my coveted set of Depression era Iris & Herringbone dishes, but she would also inherit the thick layer of dust I have allowed to accumulate on top of the serving pieces. I also considered how delighted my daughter would be to receive my Department 56 Snow Babies on the Farm collection. That is until she discovered the dust bunnies lurking under my bed where the Snow Babies are stored.
It was then that I realized in horror that it would be my mother who would inherit the ring around the toilet in the spare bathroom and the contents of my sock drawer which contains multiple pairs of socks adorned with my favorite cartoon characters. This thought prompted a new concern. As my blood pressure rose and my heart began to race, I looked down at the outfit I decided to throw on when I got home from work: a shredded Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt, pink capri sweatpants, and Scooby Doo knee-high socks. It occurred to me that if I dropped dead to the floor from a massive heart attack, my obituary would most certainly read, “It is suspected she suffered from a case of early onset dementia.”
At that moment it became clear to me that the only people we could truly trust with our estate was ourselves and each other. Following a quick change of clothes, I retreated to my writing studio to delete from my hard drive the story I wrote last month about a highly dysfunctional family living in Virginia who shoots raccoons from the deck with paintball guns…in the nude. Whoever advised, “write what you know” certainly did not consider posthumous publication and the resulting public humiliation.
So while my husband spends his time focusing on the financial end of things by running up our credit card debt at Costco.com, I will attend to the more important issues of dusting my china, scrubbing toilets, and vacuuming under my bed. As for my sock drawer, I have decided to hold onto my Scooby socks as my husband assures me that if we are ever in a car accident, he will remove them from my feet before the paramedics arrive. Now that, my friend, is trust.