DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother-in-law, "Marsha," is in failing health. Lately she has been talking about how she "won't be here next year," implying that she thinks she will be dead. But there is one thing she refuses to do. Marsha will not have a will made up or sign an advanced directive! She thinks that if she does, it will be signing her own death warrant.
Marsha is facing major surgery in the spring. She owns her own house, and she has many medical bills and debts. She has said that after she's gone, it will be "up to other people" to "handle those things." Her children cannot be trusted to agree on wise decisions about her estate, and I have seen other such unplanned estates eaten up by court-appointed administrators who take more than a year to settle matters.
Because we often discuss your newspaper column, I am hoping you might convince my mother-in-law that wills are not only good planning, but will ensure the legacy for her grandchildren that she talks about, but currently cannot guarantee. -- DUTIFUL DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
DEAR DUTIFUL D.I.L.: I'm sad to say that many people feel as your mother-in-law does -- and when they go, they leave turmoil in their wake. No one likes to face his or her own mortality, and yet the reality is that we're all gonna go sometime. (May Marsha live to 110!)
If she maintains her current stance, she risks leaving a legacy of dissension among her children -- and there's no guarantee that her grandchildren will see a penny from her estate.
It is very important that Marsha discuss this subject with her lawyer or CPA, who can explain to her what the laws are in the state where she resides and convince her of the wisdom of preplanning for the inevitable. It's not signing a death warrant, but rather a guarantee that what she has worked so hard to accrue in her lifetime will go where she wants it to.