Have you broken your 2024 resolutions already?


Media is currently bombarding us with proposed solutions to our weight problems and are peddling exercise equipment, gym memberships, food delivered to our doors, and even surgery for belly fat with a $250 discount and all accomplished in a single day. The promise is easy weight loss of all those pounds we’ve accumulated if we only purchase their products and services.

We buy and within days, most of us decide that perhaps the resolution for weight loss in 2024 is not in the cards at this time in our lives, and we resume our old habits. And surgery? No, thanks.

Put weight-loss goal aside for a moment and consider a goal that might ease your burden or cause you consternation if you are aware that in Ohio, the life expectancy for males is 72.5 years and for females is 78.1 years according to recent research by the CDC.

So are you shocked that I would suggest that death might enter your family anytime soon? COVID, suicide, accidents, tornadoes or other destructive phenomena.

Death entered my family three years ago, and as the executor of the will of my ex-husband, I learned the importance of getting one’s house in order. And several months ago a beloved family member died, and I learned that his wife was not privy to any financial information in the family. And there was also the instance of ugly legal battles with the death of a close friend three years ago.

A contributor to a column I read recently suggested having ongoing games of “hide and seek” with a relative in case of the contributor’s death. Where might extra cash be? Is there a title to the vehicle and where might it be? This is nonsense.

Know that the tasks I’m suggesting can’t be done quickly. Be patient with yourself, but do it and put the documents in two places such as Cloud computing for data storage, in a bank deposit box, or in a notebook. And inform your heirs. Attorneys make good money in trying to assist heirs but are, of course, ill prepared to take on your case unless you supply them with critical information. They are necessary, but you have responsibilities.

I learned this week from my son that if his father had done what I’m suggesting, he would have located the stock certificates that he and my younger son located after their father’s death. And there would have been a better inheritance.

My personal experiences with a host of issues three years ago have led me to make a list for you:

• An updated will

• A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

• Titles to vehicles, boats, real estate

• Insurance policies

• An arrangement with your banks that savings/checking accounts will be available to your executor at the time of your death

• Directives for final services with information on any prearrangements and deposits made, grave plots paid for

• DD 214 for veterans

• Birth, marriage, divorce, premarital agreements/certificates

• Debts, to whom, amounts, contact information

• Retirements accounts, 401s, CDs etc., and financial institutions with contact information and beneficiaries

• Citizenship papers, green card

• Ongoing utility bills

• Credit cards

• Taxes

• Video of belongings with major value such as firearms, jewelry, paintings, antiques

• Death benefits (Often from several sources such as Social Security, the military, places of employment)

I’m certain your circumstances will let you know that my list might not work for you (And I could write a paragraph about why each item in my list was important three years ago down to the utilities), but it’s a start. With multiple marriages, children born inside or outside of marriage, and the impossibility of getting some information after your death (An example for me that was troubling was the refusal of the states where my ex had retirement accounts to reveal whether the person he married and divorced following our divorce was a beneficiary to any of his retirement accounts. They only told me what our sons were getting per his signatory designation. And with newer developments in DNA technology, some individuals might emerge if generic language such as “my offspring” is used in wills.

Believe me, going through this process to get my house in order was not easy, but I did it, and you may resolve to do it in 2024. Let me know how it goes.

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., teaches telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and works with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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