Sunday, March 09, 2008

If Tomorrow Never Comes

On the day it was confirmed that Patrick Swayze, the star of two of my favorite movies, “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” was being treated for Pancreatic cancer I received a phone call from the inquisitive and inspiring journalist Shira Levine who was working on a story for

She was seeking background on steps that people might take if they were told that they had a limited period of time left. She didn’t laugh when I said that I would listen to Tim McGraw's megahit “Live Like You Were Dying”

This request had a tremendous amount of personal meaning to me. On a Friday evening in February I was having a glass of wine with a friend, discussing nothing of importance when my friend’s eyes welled up and the words “I don’t want to die” struck my ears. It was the first time that anyone has ever said that to me and those are not words that I want to hear again. I was surely as stunned as much as my friend who said them was.

While the tests are not all complete there is a good chance that my friend may not see 2009.

When you have in your mind that your days are limited time indeed becomes “sweet time” as referenced in Tim’s song. That night we spoke about what was important to my friend, what did they want to do if indeed the prognosis is correct.

How would they be remembered? Who should be told about their death? How many things will they be able to accomplish in whatever time was left?

My friend didn’t have to mention anything like estate planning or beneficiary designations; nothing mundane and that is because they have always made sure that their own financial health was in order.

It wasn’t that hard for them to do. They had prepared a Will and knew that they may have to update it when anyone new and important came into their life or when certain laws change.

They also had in place a Living Will or Health Care Proxy which gave someone the authority to make health care decisions for them when they would be unable. They knew that this person would honor their requests. This document should be reviewed periodically and updated perhaps every five years. You would not want it being challenged as being out of date.

The last important document is the Durable Power of Attorney which will allow for someone to act on your behalf. Depending on the authority contained in the document that person that you have named may even change beneficiaries for you in retirement plans or insurance policies.

Equally as important as having these documents is the fact that they are accessible. In addition they had in a simple binder a list of all their important contacts, account information and insurance information.

When time becomes your most important currency you want to spend it all on the ones you love.


Jeff Hunter said...

I know it's pretty morbid, but we have a "death list" that we update every year. Where are all the accounts, what's the passwords for those accounts, what's the insurance policy numbers and contact numbers. Everything about our financial lives is in that document. Should one of us (or even both of us) kick off, we're confident that everything is laid out plainly for our executors.

You don't realize how much things can change in a year. Jobs, 401k custodians, new accounts. The last thing I want my executors to do is have to go through 20 years of check stubs and statements to find out where all the money is.

Morris Armstrong CFP, ChFC, CDFA, AIF, EA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.