Making a will, or updating an existing one, is the right thing to do
There is nothing like writing a will to smack you with a hefty dose of recognizing your own mortality. As I prepared to have surgery to replace my bum knee, my partner and I decided we probably ought to get our paperwork in order in case anything unforeseen happened.
Both of us had made wills previously. But they were more than 20 years old, so it was time to update them, and we needed to get the Medical Power of Attorney paperwork together, as well.
So we scheduled an appointment with our attorney, and last Monday morning we showed up to review everything and sign all the papers. There were a lot of papers.
Here in Texas, even though he and I have lived together for more than 26 years, we are legally strangers.
Therefore, we needed half a dozen documents to make sure that the Great State of Texas doesn’t meddle in our business should one or both of us die.
If we were married, this would be simpler. But marriage is something we haven’t done — for a variety of reasons, including the whole heteronormative aspects of it. Nevertheless, we wanted to get things in order.
Luckily. we engaged a very good and very LGBTQ-friendly attorney, Rebecca Covell, who gently walked us through the process and made sure our wishes were asserted in legalese so things would go well with state authorities.
What really gob-smacked me was how much we had forgotten to consider. For example, what would happen to our cat, Merlin? We had to find a willing trustee to take care of him should we both move on before he did.
Again, luckily, I found a friend who knows cats and who graciously agreed to be his godparent.
And then there is the matter of passwords. Both of us have dozens of accounts and social media apps that all require passwords. Neither of us knew each other’s usernames or passwords. This could be a big problem when a surviving partner needs to get into a computer or bank account or social media account.
So we began the process of creating a list of accounts, usernames and passwords that would be locked away with our other legal documents in case of calamity. Without these, managing an estate or, frankly, just letting friends know what was happening would be a royal pain.
Then there was the matter of bank accounts. Neither of us had set up a POD (Pay On Death) for our accounts.
That’s a happy little acronym, but an important one.
When my mother passed away many years ago, I was executor of her will. But because she didn’t have a POD on her bank accounts, I had to cover everything out of my pocket until the will was probated.
And finally — that word probate!
My mother was a frugal woman, and she decided to use a boilerplate will she found in a book somewhere. It was all notarized and signed, but because one word was missing in it — one word — it took a court appearance and several months of haggling to get things settled. A court battle is not the way you want to remember a loved one.
The moral of this story? Thinking about one’s demise is never fun and, honestly, mortality is a bitch. But that shouldn’t stop you from buckling up and getting things done to make life easier for the people you love when you are no longer here.
It is a lot of work, but it’s worth it in peace of mind. Doing the “adulting” thing is never easy, even if you are an old curmudgeon like me, but it’s the right thing to do.