Aunt Lana

Aunt Lana in the middle.  My Aunt Jeanette and my father on either side.

Aunt Lana in the middle. My Aunt Jeanette and my father on either side.

My Aunt Lana passed away this past April.  She lived in Aurora, CO.  She had no children and I was the oldest of her nieces and nephews.  A couple of years back she asked me if I would assume her various Power of Attorney responsibilities including the position of Co-Personal Representative for the execution of her will.  I had a little trepidation in accepting this responsibility, but decided to take it as an honor that she trusted me with her affairs and potentially with her life decisions.  Besides, there would be no need for this until some far off date!  At that time she was only 63…

Aunt Lana as a teenager

Aunt Lana as a teenager

Aunt Lana was diagnosed with possible kidney cancer early this Spring.  She had various tests and went into the hospital for a biopsy and hopefully to have the cancer removed.  To the best of my knowledge, everything went well with the surgery.  They removed the cancer and she was released to return home.  The Doctor deemed the surgery successful.  She complained of some pain, but that was expected.  She passed away just a few days later on April 9th, just four days before her 65th birthday.

Aunt Lana, "Hahahaha...."

Aunt Lana, "Hahahahahaha…."

I have several reasons for sharing this.  First and foremost is to tell you that Aunt Lana was a lurker on this blog.  She never posted a comment, but she generally sent me emails with comments on what I had written.  They were always positive and often tinged with her signature humor and her standard sign-off, “Hahahahahahahahaha…”  I miss hearing from her.

Aunt Lana's Yearbook Picture

Aunt Lana's Yearbook Picture

My second reason is to explain to any other lurkers and clients that might peruse this blog, why I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  Posts here have slipped as well as other things, both personal and professional, as I’ve dealt with this.  As you may well guess, there are emotional issues from the unexpected loss, issues with responsibilities of being her Personal Representative and the physical issues of trips to her home in Colorado and dealing with the personal things she left behind.   Colorado requires that a Personal Representative on a will be a resident, so I am Co-Personal Representative with her friend Peter, in Aurora.  Peter has been extremely helpful.  He obviously was a good friend of Lana’s and I think I can count on him being a personal friend when this is over.  My parents have also been helpful, making two trips to Aurora to help sort and pack her things.  The rest of the family has been supportive in various ways as well.  I have heard many horror stories about these things and I have been pleased that my family has not given me any of those to tell…  so far…  (And I can hear Aunt Lana, “Hahahahahahahaha…”)

Aunt Lana and "The Boys".  Here dogs were her life.

Aunt Lana and "The Boys". Her dogs were her life.

And lastly, some tips.  Aunt Lana lived alone with her dogs.  Those dogs were her life.  In the end she failed to make arrangements for the pets that meant so much to her.  While she left me with some instructions regarding her personal things, they were not extensive.  If you don’t have a will, consider that this is something better done sooner rather than later.  Aunt Lana left me with some tough decisions to make.  I am doing my best to follow what I would believe to be her wishes, but I am guessing at best.

As I mentioned previously, Aunt Lana had named me as her Power of Attorney.  One of the responsibilities included administering her Living Will.  Fortunately I did not have to exercise those powers.  If you don’t have a Living Will, you should have one.  If you do have one, you know that the document is somewhat vague.  Lana’s Attorney provided her with a Living Will Value Assessment that allowed her to answer questions based on various health scenarios.  While it wouldn’t make the task easy and it can’t cover every possible scenario, it gave me a lot of insight into her thinking and would have made the difficult decisions easier.  (I have it in a PDF file if anyone is interested.  Contact me with an email address and I will send it out.  I still haven’t figured out how to link things other than pictures to the posts!  <sigh!>)

I’ve also learned a few things about Life Insurance.  Aunt Lana took out a policy that named me as beneficiary.  It was taken out at about the same time that I was named as P.A., so I assume that she did this in order to make sure I had some money for expenses.  Life insurance is outside the estate and can be paid in as little as 10 days from when the company receives the death certificate, while it took nearly 8 weeks to gain access to the accounts due to various filings with the State.  It was only a $5,000 policy, but it would have covered some of the immediate expenses.  Unfortunately there was fine print with the contract.   Since she passed away within 24 months of starting the policy, all the policy would do would be to return the premiums paid.   In reading the terms of the policy, I was quite surprised that she would have paid more than the $5,000 value within 6 or 7 years, but the policy would not mature for 30 years!  Not the best value!  It was particularly interesting that this was a policy endorsed by AARP.

This is a learning experience for me.  I’ve learned things about my Aunt that I didn’t know.  I am learning about the process of tying up the loose ends of one’s physical life.  I would hesitate before accepting this responsibility from someone in the future and I would definitely quiz the individual before hand.  I am already pestering people that have asked me to serve as their Medical Power of Attorney to fill out the Value Assessment.  Hopefully all this will help me leave a more organized estate, but you never know.  Procrastination is very convenient when dealing with decisions about your death.  It’s not like it’s going to happen tomorrow… right?  Right???

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