When death comes calling


Approximately 220,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 thus far, and more will be departing this earth in the upcoming months as the virus spreads indoors and deaths accelerates as some Americans believe this is all a hoax and that as Americans, they have a right to ignore the advice of infectious disease professionals. Add to this those who will die from traffic accidents, disease, drug overdoses, suicide, and a variety of other causes, such as being murdered, and the numbers are dramatic.

Although we all know that death is a given for each of us, we grieve when those we love die. In the past few months, there have been four deaths in my family, and there have been days when I have cried off and on all day. On other days, I have just wanted to sleep.

I am the executor for one of our family members who has passed, and I have spent the past month trying to straighten out his small estate even as I attempt to be strong for his sons and grandchildren who never expected this to happen — at least not now.

Because of my recent experiences, I’d like to ask my readers the following, “Is your financial/legal house in order?” You might respond that you have no intention of departing this earth any time soon. You might believe that if you do, an attorney can handle everything or a trusted relative will or that your will is up-to-date.

As we grieve, the last thing we need are financial/legal matters, and the finest lawyers will need assistance in untying the knots. My mother kept all of her “important papers” in a black, patent leather purse in the freezer. I would not recommend this, but (#1) I would advise that they be in one place with duplicate copies and that family members are aware of their location. (#2) Know that each state is different and the ways in which you handled your grandmother’s affairs in Arizona might not work in your state. (#3) If you believe that adults have the right to chart their own course at death, then you must be responsible for putting that in writing and having it notarized. The probation of the will is generally for a later date, so that will not suffice as the place for such wishes.

Are you an organ donor? Do you wish your body to be donated for research? Do you prefer a standard burial, a natural burial, a cremation? Do you want a service and if so, what kind? What about an obituary? Should it be detailed? My two siblings and I learned when we read our middle sister’s obituary that she must have been an only child because we were not mentioned in hers.

(#4) Let’s start with the basics: a will, a power of attorney, a health care directive. All these should be current as divorces and deaths might alter your sense of what you want.

(#5) Do you have a safety deposit box? At what bank? Who has the key? Is there a co-signer on the account? Should there be?

Credit cards are another issue. At one time I had 10, more or less. I have two now.

(#6) Someone needs to put a stop on those card at your death, but someone must know how many you have and with whom.

Do you have divorce, marriage, and birth records? (#7) Get them all in one place.

On to (#8) assets: deeds to property; titles to vehicles and boats; savings accounts; checking accounts; insurance policies; retirement accounts; other financial instruments; personal property such as art, silver, china, jewelry, furniture, collections. What about insurance? Who is the insurer and when are premiums due?

Have I exhausted you? I never said that this would be easy.

Next come (#9) liabilities: credit-card debt, loans, medical bills, utility bills, and so forth.

With many of the items I’ve listed, you need the following: contact person, name and address of the company, phone number, web site, email, and other vital information.

And at one point or more, consult lawyers. You’ll need their special expertise.

I’m actively working on all this now so that my sons won’t inherit a mess when death comes calling for me. I no longer have my mother’s black, patent leather purse, but I do have a red binder, and I’ve made a list and checked it out with my sons.


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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