Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scatter Me Under The Bench; And Other Thoughts on Wisconsin's Authorization for Final Disposition

Ask my husband and he likely to blame it on my profession, but he'd be wrong. The spark that ignited my recent flurry of estate planning paper work was not flamed by my role as an estate planning attorney.  But rather by our upcoming annual vacation. Just like so many of my clients, "update estate planning papers" makes it to the short list of vacation preparation. No, I am not kidding.  It is the #2 most popular reason clients call for an appointment.

Day after day, week after week, month after month I sit at my little brown table with clients, reminding them to fill out their Wisconsin Authorization for Final Disposition.  Tucked into the left side pocket of their folder, the last form in the stack, it is the form I refer to as the "ever so cheery -- who is in charge when I die" form.

In Wisconsin, the power of attorney for health care ends with the declarant's death.  Last breath and the power ends.  Which raises the question of who will be in charge of your burial / funeral? In Wisconsin we have a statutory presumption that it is your next of kin.  For some clients, that is fine, at least for the first level of kin folk.  For others, it is not.  And each time I discuss this with clients a nagging feeling nestles into my brain -- "Um Melinda, you need to update yours now that your mom died, remember?"

Wisconsin statutes are fine with me on this matter since my next of kin in my loving husband.  But what if he could not make the decision (conjure up a vision of him in an ICU bed, or worse.....), then I start to stammer.  My kids are too young, and it would defer to my other relatives.  While we may share DNA, we do not share our lives.  They have theirs, I have mine.  Birthdays and holidays for me are spent with a group of childhood friends who have become my village now that my parents have both passed away.  When I needed to haul a urine soaked kiddo mattress out of my house to the curb while my husband was in Seattle for business, I called on The Village for help.  These are the folks who I can trust to carry out my final wishes if my earthly time should come to an end and my husband cannot act.

And so that is what I did this past Sunday -- I sat down and finally put my wishes into a legally binding format.  First my husband, then a friend, and if not, then another.  Witnessed by two individuals and signed by the three I have empowered, I can now advise clients without that nagging voice echoing in my head.

Cremation, direct cremation to be exact.  Use Informed Choice associated with Cress Funeral, if it is still around.   If they survive me, a small amount of they ashes should go to my husband and each child.  The rest should be scattered under the bench on the beach in Bayfield, Wisconsin.  The one next to the ferry station, just to the north of the renovated structure.  It is there, above in the photo, under the tree.  Contact my friend and Minister, Kelly Crocker at the First Unitarian Society of Madison for a Memorial Service. Have no more than 5 photos on display -- pick the nice ones, leave the rest. Blue Boat Home and Come Sing a Song With Me should be performed.  Bill the estate.  Keep the costs low, especially if my children survive.

That's me. What about you?  What would you want?  Who would you want running things?  Now......put it into a legally binding format.  And then enjoy your vacation.  I plan to.