We recreate these short stories by identifying three women, each of whom lost their life partner in recent times. The individual experiences illustrate what the real world is like when the unexpected arrives. We talk here of Mary, Martia, and Margot to disguise their real identities.
Mary’s husband, Ralph, died at age 44, in a car accident on his way to work. He ran the family business, with 32 employees; he was a well-liked, optimistic and busy man. His family and the business were his universe and consumed almost every waking thought. Like many in a similar situation, he juggled competing priorities every week. Though mostly a thorough man, he never got around to making a Will. Repeat: he never got around to making a Will. So, although his life ceased at precisely 11.32 on a rainy autumn morning some months ago, Mary’s new – and difficult – life began in that moment. It was a nightmare come true – and it still is. She is bringing up teen children Jennifer and William as best she can, and they are doing their best to help. But it’s Mary who must deal with the requirements of their accountant and lawyer. Despite the formidable workload, Mary has tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the business. No doubt, one day, issues will work themselves out – but the scars will take a long time to heal. It’s ironic that Mary’s friends have now all made sure they have their essential legal documents made up, signed and kept in a safe place.
Martia lost David to cancer when she was 60 and he 62. He had retired as an executive of an advertising agency two years earlier and, comfortably off, they had planned to be busy tourists for at least the next decade. Then, after finding a few niggling lumps in his abdomen and neck, David reluctantly visited his doctor for an examination. The prognosis was not good, and tests were called for. To his bewilderment, David found that he had a cancer that was far advanced – so much so that an operation was ruled out as being ‘too little, too late’. This fond couple were devastated and, though Martia was very supportive, she soon fell to depression. After initial anger and denial, David had no choice but to accept his fate and did his best to console Martia by telling her that his Will spelled everything out and that she would be OK. He died suddenly on a sunny morning early last year. The funeral over, and tears tissued away, it was time for Martia to collate all the components of what David had left in his Will. And that was when her challenges began. She knew what she was looking for but did not know where to find most things. An intensely private man, David had looked after his own affairs – rather too well as it turned out because neither their lawyer nor accountant knew where all but a few items were. Eighteen months after David’s departure, the search is not finalised and Martia is still waiting for the estate to be settled and delivered to her as the sole beneficiary. Her health has suffered markedly.
Margot is now 72 and lost partner Simon to a heart attack four years ago. Because Simon had an entrepreneurial streak, he was in the habit of accepting some of the many assignments that came his way. He ran his consultancy from the office he’d established at home and had been in the happy position of combining his passion for life with his passion for business. Eighteen months ago, he collapsed in the city while walking between appointments. It was a great shock to Margot and the family and all ached with grief at their loss. After a couple of weeks, reality set in and elder daughter Therese set about helping her mother with post-death practicalities. The two of them found it remarkably easy. It turns out that a year before Simon died, Peter D, their financial planner, had light-heartedly put the couple through what he called his ‘client pre-mortem’ program, ensuring they had the benefits of their affairs being organised ‘Just in case one was hit by a bus’. He underpinned the exercise by urging they sign up for a Now Sorted personal vault. It all made good sense. They were pleased with how particularly comprehensive this service was and invited Peter, and their lawyer, and their accountant into their vault to see just the data and documents that were relevant to their advice role. Within three months they had Simon’s billings all paid, and the estate settled and distributed. The way it should be.
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