I just received an offer of life insurance where they don’t check your health record. The small print was that you had to stay alive for a year. Oh well; a piece of mail for the bin.
Cancer has given me a long time to die – perhaps too long. My first living will was done in 2004 – it was quite a shock to realize that 7 years ago I was absolutely convinced I was going to die. And I’m still here. Although I’m more convinced than ever that stage 4 cancer has got me, I don’t want to be too hasty and end up in an apartment with nothing left, or even worse tags on everything saying who gets what so it looks like a saleroom. I have to come up with a plan. Any suggestions?
I didn’t want to spend the last few months of my life talking to accountants and lawyers, but it has to happen. I need to figure out what I have to give away after I spend an unknown amount on the expenses of my last months. (And what happens if I spend, assuming I’m going to be dead, and then I live another 7 years? Oh my God, it doesn’t bear thinking about.) You just can’t give money away without the tax man looking over your shoulder. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came to the funeral. I can see the ‘suits’ now: IRS/HMRC/whoever, all there counting their share of the gold.
Should have, would have, could have, all come in to play. If I had set up trusts funds for grandchildren or given assets away years ago I would have avoided taxes. It feels like the tax that would be levied adds up to more than the money that will be hanging around after expenses.
The worst part is getting rid of everything. I mentioned it to my tax lawyer and she immediately sent me a form. It is called a ‘letter of intention’ and I imagined everything I owned or thought about owning would be listed in categories so that all I had to do was fill in the name of the person who was getting it. NO. It had a paragraph of legal jargon, followed by an empty sheet with only two columns: item and person who gets it.
OK. Where do I begin to give away all my junk. Just to remind you all, I’m 72 and I have friends younger and older. BUT from about 60 up most people are trying to get rid of things. ‘Downsizing’ is the most popular catchword. My god child (21) is someone I imagine taking all my clothes and junk jewelry (I own no expensive jewelry). She takes a size 0 to my size 25, also there is 50 year gap in our ages and tastes, so forget it.
I have a dear friend who has a sprawl of a house and she was good enough to ask for a lamp. At least there is one lamp with a home.
The biggest dilemma comes with art work. It is the problem anyone who gets at all involved in contemporary art has. One swans into a gallery, feeling on top of the world and falls madly in love with an artist’s work. It fits the budget and is one of the smaller works. (It grows every year you have it). Twenty years later your taste has changed and the artist has gone into oblivion. You call the gallery in the hope that they might still be interested in the artist and might even undertake selling it on your behalf. FORGET IT. They take a message and will call you back some day. Don’t hold your breath. Auction houses – well, maybe someday, lug it down here and we’ll look at it. eBay – it feels wrong to dump an artist who you once thought might become great.
A friend of mine emailed me this morning. I have a small flat in Miami Beach. I haven’t been there in over a year and a half. I always figure if you haven’t used something in that long a period you probably don’t need it. Her plan was to pile up all the things she thought I might need in London on my sofa, and send them back with my friend Martin. Too much stuff.
I’ve done my will over and over again: my living will, my dying will, my almost dying will, my letter of intention and my health care proxy, not to mention all the accountants and lawyers one has to speak to, I would advise that you put death off as long as possible.