December 30, 2011

Our Life after a Loved One Passed Away

Life as We Know it.

My father in law passed away on Dec 15, 2011. He was a great mentor, a caring friend, a warm person, and a loving father of my husband. However, since he gave his power of attorney to his girlfriend, who is a married woman, and she kept him largely away from us these last 5 years. And so, when we visited him at the senior center 5 days before he passed away, she did not let us to see him. When we tried to visit him, she locked the door, and screamed “Go away or I will call the police”, and she did.

We asked his social worker and manager of the senior center, and his friends for help, but everyone listened to this woman who had the power of attorney. It was very sad that nobody would help us to see him before he died. We are his family and my husband is his only son. There does not appear to be any family rights in the US.

After my father in law’s death, we soon found out that his affairs were more complicated than we thought since my father in law designated his executor of his estate to a friend of his who lives in NY, she hired a lawyer, it is the holiday season, and she informed us that the will was rewritten 6 days before he passed away.

According to my father in law’s wishes, his body was cremated and his remains are to be buried at his parents’ grave at my father in law's birthplace in Germany. But who is going to do this? It might be stated in the will, but we don’t know right now. Understandably, my husband wants to transport his remains to Germany.

Anyway, after this happened to our family, I learned that the legal rights of a power of attorney is greater than the family rights in the US. I think the lack of family rights in the US is very unfortunate and has contributed to the breakdown of the American family unit. In Japan, kinship family is highly respected, and the deceased’s properties are divided equally among the family. (If a husband dies, 50% of his property goes to his wife, and the rest is divided equally among their children.)

On the positive side, we have learned many things from this experience that will help us better plan our own lives and end of our lives.

As a first step, my husband and I decided that it is very important that we both make our living wills, since if something happened to my husband and/or I, our son would receive our estate. In a will, one can designate everything that one wants to de done with one’s estate and children. So, for instance, I could ask my sister in JAPAN to take care of my son until he is an adult when he can make his own decisions. Without a will, the state would decide what would be done with my son.

Also, I prepare for the possibility of me passing away before my husband.

I started making a list of IDs and Passwords that I use for services such as banks, credit cards, and other internet services. Some of the services are located in Japan. So I carefully make lists in order for my husband to read them in English. By preparing my financial affairs in advance like this, it will be easier for my husband or anyone else to take care of everything when I pass away.
In 2012, we will celebrate our 6 years anniversary of our marriage. Making our own will is going to be one of our first important projects in 2012. After we have completed our wills I will feel more secure with my family and living here in the US!

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