Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are You Ready?

Last Thursday my father-in-law got seriously hurt in a fall. He’s got a broken wrist, contusion on his forehead, 2 compressed vertebrae, as well as some other bumps and bruises. What we thought would be an overnight or two in the hospital has turned into a five day stay so far. We’re at a loss as to how to help my mother-in-law deal with everything. Partially because we live an hour away. Partially because we don’t know a lot about their situations (medical, financial, etc.). And partially because I’ve been home with a sick 3 year old and 3 snow days in the past week. Adding to the stress of the situation is that he’s not being cared for by his regular primary care doctor, and she seems uninterested in helping him, and none of us (my mother-in-law, husband and I) feel that he is being cared for properly at the hospital he is in.

This whole situation got me thinking – how prepared are we if something were to happen to our spouses or vice versa? In dealing with my in-laws, my husband and I have realized that besides living in a house together, they basically lead separate lives. It took a few days for my mother-in-law to gather documentation regarding her husband’s medication and doctors. And now she has to go through all their papers and figure out where the life insurance policies are, pay stubs, etc. for him to apply for assistance. She knows he has a living will but isn’t exactly sure where it is, and what it states. She doesn’t know if he has a medical power of attorney.

Naturally, in a marriage one person usually takes responsibility for the “paperwork” of life – monthly bills, insurance policies, bank statements, etc. This is fine and good. But what if something were to happen to that person, would the other spouse or other family member know where to find those and other important documents? I have a feeling that even as organized as I am – everything is in a portable filing box & labeled – my husband would forget.

Aside of knowing where to find the documents, do you and your spouse have all your important documents prepared – a will, a living will, picked your children’s guardians, etc. We don’t. And that’s something important we need to do, especially since we have two young children. I know it’s not a topic people are jumping up and down at the chance to discuss, but it’s an important topic. I know my parents haven’t yet done their will, even though when my father’s cancer went into remission they kept promising they would. Now, they don’t have any young children and not a lot of financial wealth to be disbursed, but they do have certain wishes – as we all do – that they want to make sure are carried out. A will is important even if you don’t have children or a huge estate to be dealt with. A will allows you to outline how you want certain things to be when you’ve died – how you want your funeral/if you want a funeral, if there are funds to help pay for it, how possessions should be handled, and the like. They don’t have to be complicated. Though you should consult with an estate attorney for peace of mind, you can even access basic will documents, form living wills, form medical power of attorney, etc. on the internet or at office supply stores.

My husband and I, in light of my in-laws’ situation, have renewed our conversations about doing our own wills. And we’ve already decided we need to sit down with his parents and have a serious heart to heart about their documents, wishes, where to find things, etc. once my father-in-law is up to it. And if my parents happen to read my blog – well, uhmm, may this be a reminder to you, too.

So “How ready are you?”

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