Mary Owens: Facing the unimaginable
This month we will continue with the journey of Tony and Martha through the various waves of emotion and challenges they will face together as Tony battles lung cancer.
We left off with Tony trying to figure out how he should update his trust documents to ensure financial security for his wife Martha, and still leave some assets to his kids to assist them as well. He was sitting in the den with documents spread all around his recliner on the floor. He was on his fifth day of chemo treatments. His body ached and his mind was clouded. He kept reading and rereading his trust document, lining through old information that needed to be updated and scribbling notes in the side margins. The more he thought about things, the more he changed his mind about what the best solutions might be. He had scratched through so many notes and lines of print that he could not even figure out what he meant to say anymore. Tony desperately wanted to get this right. He did not want to become the husband and father who got whispered about because he had left his affairs in a mess. He had once prided himself on his organization; now he felt exhausted, frustrated, scared, and defeated all in one pool of emotion. He put his head into his hands and began to sob. He could not fathom how his life circumstances had changed so quickly. He knew he was not prepared, but at that moment, he could not even begin to understand just how underprepared he really was.
After a good night’s sleep, Tony called his estate planning attorney’s office to schedule an appointment to get his documents updated ASAP. He was given an appointment four weeks out. He asked the secretary to squeeze him in as soon as possible. It was urgent. The secretary, trained to give people the priority they need, asked, “Is this a potential situation where you may become incapacitated or face a life-threatening illness immediately?” Tony could not admit to the secretary or himself that it was, so he answered, “No.” His appointment was booked a month out.
Tony rationalized his answer to himself, “I am not going to die in four weeks. I am just getting started in the treatment. An appointment a month out will give me more time to think this through and make sure Martha has a chance to gather her thoughts and questions as well. This will be better. I don’t even know what to tell the attorney yet. After I get used to the chemo, I will be able to think more clearly. I just had a really bad day yesterday. I overreacted.” He scolded himself for panicking.
Martha was relieved to see her husband in better spirits in the morning. He was so depressed the night before he went to bed without even telling her goodnight. But she was still fretting to herself. She wanted to go over the bills with Tony. She realized that she did not have any understanding of their finances. They had always divided tasks between the two of them. Tony oversaw all the finances, and Martha liked it that way. She hated anything with numbers and was not good with computers.
When she spotted Tony logging in to his laptop to pay some bills, she asked him to show her what he was doing. Reluctantly, Tony agreed. He wrote down two passwords on a piece of paper. One was to get into the computer and the other was the password to the website of their online banking. He logged out and very quickly showed her how to log back in. Martha was intimated; she had never even turned the computer on much less logged in to a website. She asked to try herself. Tony didn’t like it, but Martha insisted. She wanted to know how to do it.
With Tony looking over her shoulder, giving step by step instructions, Martha finally managed to log in. But she knew she could not repeat it without Tony’s help. She asked Tony to please write out step by step instructions and to print out a copy of their bank statement so she could at least know the account number and the name of the bank. Tony mumbled that he’d get to it later. But he really didn’t intend to do anything more. He thought, “I am capable of paying the bills. She is overreacting like I did last night.”
Martha, more frustrated than ever, called their financial advisor and told her what was going on with Tony. She had not gone to the portfolio reviews in the past. She really disliked that sort of thing. But now she was glad she called. Martha was informed of how out of date their trust was and how it could complicate affairs if Tony became incapacitated, or worse, passed away. It was suggested that Martha go on Tony’s IRA account immediately as a Power of Attorney (POA) in case Tony was not able to act on his own behalf. Martha scheduled an appointment for them to come in to sign the forms. Then she called their attorney and found out they had an appointment a month off. She told the secretary it was in fact urgent and they could not wait that long. The appointment was changed to the following week.
That afternoon, Martha told Tony about the new appointment date with their attorney and the need to get her on Tony’s IRA account as a POA. Tony exploded at Martha. “I am not going to die! You are overreacting!” Tony’s denial was alive and well.
Martha left the house and went on a walk. She did not want Tony to see her tears.
Next month the journey of Martha and Tony will continue. Their challenges have just begun.
Mary Owens, Principal/Branch Manager, RJFS, 426 Sutton Way, Suite 110, Grass Valley, CA 95945, 530-272-7500. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Owens Estate and Wealth Strategies Group is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Neither Raymond James Financial Services nor any Raymond James Financial Advisor renders advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues, these matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Mary Owens and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.
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