Preparing for the worst

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

The one aspect of life that is certain for every person in every circumstance is that someday, that life will end. Modern medicine has done wonders in the past century but even at best, it only postpones the inevitable. So why do we postpone making plans for the inevitable? Denial is a powerful force, creating the mythos in our mind that by refusing to plan for our death, we can hold it at bay forever.

While such thinking is understandable, it is ultimately harmful. Dying is rarely a scheduled event and when plans have not been laid beforehand, chaos and confusion reign, often bringing out the worst of natures in the best of people.

When America lost Ted Williams last week, it gained an example of everything bad that can happen when plans are not clearly defined. Williams' son, has decided to cryogenically preserve his father's head and DNA "for posterity" - prosperity. Williams' daughters, understandably, are seeking to block this move and have their father cremated. According to them, that was the wish of the baseball great. Unfortunately we may never know for sure since his wishes were not clearly defined in his legal will before he began to have less than lucid moments and his son gained power of attorney.

We cannot stress enough the importance of a legal will - both a living will and a Last Will and Testament. Why spend your life establishing solid financial ground only to lose much of it to the government - instead of your loved ones – because you have died intestate? Why spend a life uniting your family with bonds of love and security, only to have those bonds eroded by uncertainty and greed? In a living will and a last will, your wishes are made clear. Legally done and notarized, your wishes are upheld by the law. Wills can be contested, of course, but such battles are rare - far rarer than familial battles that occur without a will.

Cost is negligible - there are many websites that offer the proper forms for each state for little or no cost, and a notary's services are not expensive. We do recommend that, especially in more complicated estates, that a lawyer be consulted for the drafting of the will to prevent those same sorts of ugly entanglements. Ignoring the possibility of death does not prevent its inevitability. Planning for it can prevent a time of grief from becoming a time of bitterness and battle.

"Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me"

– Emily Dickinson