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Kicking it: Making hard decisions before you die

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to the Village News

It only stands to reason that when it comes to the hard stuff, like everyone else, I push it to the back of my mind. That is until I had a big health hiccup. Now that the time to avoid it has passed, I have to do it.

Which is why at first, I thought I’d just update my current Trust. However, the attorney we met with only writes new ones. It turns out, I’ll have a new revised Trust as will VJ.

Mostly, I want to manage my own healthcare. Which is why VJ is my designated healthcare advocate. He’ll see that my Healthcare Directive wishes are adhered to. Basically, it’s all about simplifying this whole dying business by letting the hospital and doctors know my end-of-life strategy.

The best part about a Trust is how it avoids probate costs and helps to allocate resources directly to my heirs and can expedite the transfer of personal property.

But. The paperwork is grueling.

Besides that, hard decisions had to be made. The first was who to subjugate the Power of Attorney to? After all, they’ll be responsible for my care and possibly use some of my resources? That is why I started with a personal inventory of items and jewelry. I listed all of my stuff since it’s a second marriage for us both.

And, if you are wondering, you too will die. That is the only way out. It is the when that we need to prepare for. By doing a new Trust, I was forced to go through piles of paperwork, sort through files stuffed with very old documents, and have hard conversations with my husband about the business of dying.

As part of this happy exercise, I made a list of gifts to bestow upon my grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, a one-time endowment to the US War Dog fund, and with the balance of my happy-trash going to my daughter. This should piss her off for sure.

The bottom line is, regardless of one’s assets, a Trust will avoid probate and skirt around some taxes for your heirs. It just makes sense.

All said, if I had a choice of how to die, I would pick the same way as a friend’s father. He tripped over a parking lot cement tire stop, hit his head on the side of a building, and bang! He was a goner. No lingering. No relentless pain. No drugs. Nothing. Just one minute he sprung open the trunk to put in the suitcase, the next, bang! He was gone. Thank you, Jesus.

Naturally I do not think dying will cause the same level of celebration that my birth did. No one will be opening bottles of champagne because dying isn’t pretty. Going out will no doubt involve some lingering, some pain followed by some drugs, with some diapers, lots of hair loss, some leg cramps, coupled with a great deal of flatulence. At least that’s the way I see it.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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