Having our names added to the rolls of the Omega Chapter is one ‘ceremony’ that each of us will experience. While we will never see it firsthand we will inevitably experience entering that final chapter of our physical lives. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, we all realize that death is a certainty in life.
As men of Sigma it’s critical that we recognize this crucial fact. The worst thing we can do is nothing. Doing nothing means that we will leave chaos, uncertainty and challenges for our surviving family. Doing something means that we plan. We plan for the eventuality that will afflict us all. Each of us has gone through the mental stage of thinking that we are invincible and have no need to plan this far ahead. When we were in our youth we never had a need for health and life insurance. If we were fortunate enough to have policies it was because our parents, guardians, family members or caregivers provided it for us. Many of the policies we had during our collegiate years may have been campus health services policies or extensions that we were granted from our parents’ coverage. If you were lucky you came from a military family and ‘Uncle Sam’s’ Army, Navy, Air force, Marines or U.S. Coast Guard coverage was extended to us as young adults. If you were born or raised in the Mighty Eastern Region of Sigma, odds are that you may have had family that worked for the Federal Government. Years ago the Feds had some of the best benefit packages around. These packages typically included health and life insurance to cover other family members. Left to our own, we probably would not invest in an insurance policy.
As we graduated college and began our careers, many of us declined life insurance in our benefit package for a larger take home pay check. We rationalize this decision by thinking that we’re young and nothing could ever happen to us. We felt that we would live forever. As we grew, we began to realize the human frailties and experience a growing number of friends and family that depart this earth (often too young) we begin to see the importance of life insurance. Little aches and pains remind us that we are no longer 25. Many of us get married, start families and begin to extend the circle of life. It’s usually during these moments that we begin to realize our own mortality. Seeing a child born is a clear reminder to us that the circle of life is ever-present. There is a beginning AND an end.
This article is not meant to be the solemn reminder that we all must depart. Rather it’s a reminder that we as Men of Sigma must be sure to do the right thing and plan for our families and loved ones. How many of you have a will? How many have completed formal estate planning? If you have a wife, girlfriend, life partner, children family etc. – it’s more important than ever. There are far too many instances where Brothers pass and there is no will, the family descends into chaos. Who gets the house? What becomes of the car(s)? How is investment property distributed? Just as important as these items is the disposition of sentimental items. Old photo albums, fraternity pins, memorabilia of a life well lived – each has a priceless value to family members. If you prepare a will that clearly details how these items are to be handled upon death you can save the surviving family members a great deal of stress and avoid family feuds.
Contrary to popular belief you do not have to use a lawyer to create and file a will. There are many easy to use online tools that can assist in developing a last will and testament. There are also popular software packages such as Quicken Willmaker Plus 2014 that walks you through a questionnaire and helps you write your will. You can also go to your to state and local government website to identify the process and locate the Office of the Register of Wills for your area. While not required, a lawyer can certainly help make the filing of a will a smoother process as well as ensure that all the local laws are taken into consideration when filing a will. A lawyer can also explain the local estate and gift law tax information.
When filing a will there are several components that comprise the full set of documentation. They are as follows:
- Health Care Directive
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Executor Documents
- Final Arrangements
Whether you utilize a software tool or enlist the services of a lawyer, creating a will is a logical step in Sigma Wellness. From personal experience there were three challenging parts to developing a will. One was picking an executor. She or he must be trustworthy, reliable and willing to serve in this capacity. Consider the many traits that an executor must have in order to effectively function in this capacity. Don’t just pick a Brother if he’s not going to be able to handle this awesome responsibility. Here’s a reference of the duties of an estate executor: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-does-executor-do-30236.html The second difficult part for me in the will process was deciding final arrangements. Deciding a traditional burial versus cremation or donating your body to science for research are not things that most of us think about. Many factors plan into this decision. Cost is one key factor in this decision. If you have a robust life insurance policy you have better options available. Based on the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral costs for ‘traditional burial’ in 2012 were about $7,000. As you plan, be sure to consider this fact in your plan. None of us want to be a burden to our families when we pass. This is why we encourage each Brother to have a sound life insurance plan to cover the basic costs for a funeral. Personally, the most difficult part of crafting a will is the medical directive. If you are not aware, the medical directive is the portion of the will that provides our loved ones with information on how to provide for our medical care in our last moments. Do you want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on file? Do you wish to be kept on life support if the situation warrants it? Will your organs be donated? These and other questions are posed to create a comprehensive medical directive. Questions of this nature are not typically discussed. They probe our innermost moral fiber and are not to be taken lightly. It’s encouraged that you discuss these with your family and make the right decision for you and your loved ones.
Working through these difficult decisions while you’re of sound mind and body makes a challenging task a little easier. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you already have a will make sure that you review the document and update them as necessary. Is your executor still a good fit for your plan? Have there been life events that require you to update the documents? Birth of a new child? Divorce? Re-married? Adopted a child? Other life events?
These are not easy discussions. In fact it is…THE MOST DIFFICULT DISCUSSION.
Eastern Regional Director Social Action