Mary Owens: Getting through the unimaginable
We left off last month with Tony and Martha finally dealing with the details of their financial affairs. When Tony was initially diagnosed with cancer, the prognosis was positive, and the doctors were confident he would win the battle and have years to live. But as the weeks and months wore on, his issues grew more complicated. Tony was not reacting well to the chemotherapy. He was very weak, and his lack of appetite was making matters more difficult.
The couple had their appointment with their estate planning attorney, and Tony was very specific about how he wanted the trust documents drafted. The chemo was hard on him, but his mind was lucid. The financial planning document their advisor put together helped Tony and Martha clearly understand the issues. Martha was beginning feel a sense of relief over her financial future if Tony did not survive.
New documents would be ready for signing the following week. The IRA would go to Martha, and the life insurance policy for $250,000 would now be going to his kids. He had the new beneficiary paperwork ready to go and would sign it and get it in the mail immediately. He waived the envelope in the air to show he already had a stamp on it.
The thirty-one years Tony and Martha spent together were so happy, almost magical. Martha had been a great mom to his children, more than their biological mother had ever been. Tony’s ex-wife, Pam, was an alcoholic who never thought much beyond where her next drink was coming from, much less concern for her family. She had been a constant thorn in their side ever since they married. But Martha took it in stride and did not let Pam’s needling get her down. Instead, she raised Tony’s kids as her own and was never concerned about her hard-earned money being spent for their support. Martha used her paychecks to provide the extras to the family, such as vacations, educational opportunities, and some of the nicer things life. She was generous to a fault, and Tony loved and appreciated her spirit. It was her support that enabled Tony to save large portions of his pay in his 401K plan at work. What more could he ask for, especially in a second marriage that comes with extra complications? Tony was determined to leave Martha in a position of financial security.
Tony’s kids were coming over for dinner that night. Martha was making their favorite meal. Tony planned to let the kids know their estate plans while eating dinner. He also wanted to tell them how much he loved Martha and how important it was to him that they watch over her and make sure she was taken care of like she was their mother. He felt strongly they owed that to her.
Tony finally ate a solid meal with his family. The calories gave him energy and a better sense of wellbeing. He just felt in his heart he was going to kick this thing. His kids said all the right things at dinner. They promised to emotionally and physically support their stepmom. The evening ended with hugs and kisses among them all. The pieces were finally in place. All that was left was signing the documents the following week.
That weekend, Tony and Martha took a long drive around Lake Tahoe. They enjoyed a scrumptious bowl of clam chowder at the Beacon Restaurant in Richardson Cove. The lake glistened in the summer sunshine. Kids were playing in the water. It was a spectacular day in such a peaceful setting. But the activities of the day were beginning to wear Tony out. He was short of breath. His chest was beginning to feel very heavy. He ignored it, thinking that he had simply over done it. Martha thought they should go home and let him get some rest. Tony was reluctant but was becoming aware that something was wrong. He knew he needed rest. They held hands as they slowly walked back to the car. Tony would let Martha drive home and he could nap on the way.
Martha was surprised when Tony handed her the keys to the car. That was not like him. He always liked to drive. She took them without saying a word.
They were passing by Emerald Bay when it hit. Tony could not breathe. Between gasps he whispered, “Get help now.” Martha quickly turned into the overlook parking lot, opened the door and screamed, “I need an ambulance! Please help us!” Several people came running. Fortunately, one was a paramedic. He performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. But it was too late. Tony died on the way to the hospital in South Lake Tahoe. It was later determined that he passed away from embolisms that had formed in his lungs very suddenly. It was a known risk of intensive chemotherapy. Without realizing it, the higher altitude of Lake Tahoe probably contributed to it getting worse so quickly.
Martha was in shock. She wept. The love of her life was gone. And now she had to call her stepchildren and let them know he was gone. Such a glorious day ended with such intense grief.
But there were other issues looming ahead. The new estate planning documents were not signed. What would that mean for Martha’s financial security? It didn’t take long for the dominoes to start falling. Join us next month as we walk with her through the unimaginable.
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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