YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – April 2023

I am sure like me, you have heard many times the old phrase by Ben Franklin:  “nothing is certain except death and taxes”. When we are young, we do not realize the full impact of this and the responsibilities that go along with these two items.  Taxes are pretty straight forward – you earn money, you pay taxes. Death is more complicated. You may become severely injured or critically ill, or if you are lucky to live to a long life-each still has the same final outcome–death. With our death there still are “responsibilities” you should take care of before you die, so others do not have to pick up your responsibilities. In my pet columns I have spoken about this many times – what plans have you made for your pet if you become incapacitated and/or die? Do not put this burden on someone else if you really love your pet.

The other aspect of death is, what have you done to deal with all the things that need to be done after you have died? Several years ago, I was asked to be the executor for someone, I’ll call Jane Doe. Having never done this before, I did research as to what “my” responsibilities were. I met with Jane and had a whole list of questions and topics to be covered for all the things to be done: cremation, burial, co-signature on Jane’s bank account so I could pay her outstanding bills, find out what bills would need to be paid, notifying family and contact information, donation of her personal belongings including a car, her doctor’s name, etc…  Sadly Jane did die, on a Sunday afternoon in her rental house. From there everything went downhill. Jane no longer saw that doctor she told me about, so I had to quickly find and call a doctor willing to make a visit for the “declaration” as funeral parlors will not pick up a deceased person without a doctor’s declaration first. The paperwork Jane showed me for her cremation had not been paid-shame on me for not double checking. So I had to guarantee that I would pay the bill, and then they would agree to take Jane for cremation. Next day I went to the bank to see the officer to let her know about the death and wanted to secure money to pay the funeral parlor, and etc.. I found out at that visit that at some time after I had signed as Jane’s co-signer, she changed it to another person, and did not tell me. The bank had to get permission from that other person so I could have money to pay Jane’s bills. I will not detail all the hurdles I had to go through to get her car donated to Jane’s designated person, and the other newly discovered labyrinth of problems. 

Looking back at that 4 month’s work, I learned a lot of lessons. Since that time I have talked with many other people who on short notice got entangled in another person’s death where the deceased person did not make any provisions, accurate or otherwise, for their after death obligations–arranging for a home for their pet(s), scrambling to find and notify relatives if any, dispose of belongings including what to do with the ashes, etc. BUT worst of all, several good hearted kind people got “screwed.” They had paid bills of the deceased person, including large medical bills, etc.. and when encountering the decease’s family/relative who knew about the outstanding debt(s) to be repaid, even when  there was inheritance money to do this, they did not repay the money owed to that kind person who helped their relative/friend. Yes, at Lakeside – this is not right! In those cases I hope there is Karma for such a despicable person. Each person has an obligation to get their own affairs in order beforetheir death, and not dump their responsibilities on some unsuspecting person. End of sermon.

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