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What Legal Papers do we Need?

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Q. My husband and I are in our late 60s. Both of us in are in reasonably good health, and he will retire in about five years. We have a modest amount of savings, are helping financially with a handicapped grandson, and have not signed a will or trust. We realize we better quit procrastinating and get it done. What are the most important documents we need?

A. Every family has different needs. There are documents to address almost everything we do. Another complication is that state laws differ. For example, an important one every adult should execute is a "Power of Attorney for Health Care." Otherwise, if you have not designated one, even your loved ones may not be able to make medical decisions for you. In emergencies, it is best to be prepared for decisions. If not, someone else may take charge of your life or estate. This possibly includes your state officials, the IRS, court-appointed attorneys or relatives you prefer not to do so.

Do your homework about your needs. Important information sources are estate attorneys, websites, your library and family and friends who have already been through the process. Frequently, parents do procrastinate creating the documents because of costs, not having made up their mind about who should receive what and the fear that some recipients will learn in advance what they will or will not receive. Family wars are known to break out when this occurs. Your bottom line is to no longer hesitate. Legal documents need to be signed and easily available for access, and always remember they can be changed if you desire.

Q. Nearly 30 years ago, while my husband was serving in the military, I had a secret affair. I was lonely, had a 1-year-old daughter, and worried about the possibility of my husband not being able to survive the war. I often needed a handy man to make minor repairs. I needed a plumber to fix my sink, so I called a handy man that was advertising in the newspaper. Nothing happened between us, but several months later I had an electrical problem and called him again. We were attracted to each other. He was divorced. We went beyond repairs. My husband and I are now celebrating our 36th year of a happy marriage. I have not told him about my affair. I feel guiltier about it every day. At this stage of life, I am now wondering if I should tell my husband to ease my conscience. What is your opinion?

A. Before you make your decision, make sure you are prepared to accept the consequences. No marriage is perfect, and you know your husband better than anyone. Who knows what his reaction would be? Write out a checklist of winning/losing options that could occur. Would it change his feelings about you, cause a divorce, make him appreciative of your honesty, change your families' opinions of you? Would he cause you physical harm, lose interest in you, start sulking or just lose interest in your relationship at this late date? Would it make a difference at this point in your lives? Simply wanting to relieve yourself of guilt may or may not be a viable solution now. Only you can make that decision!

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California Retirement community. Contact him at deardoug@msn.com. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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