When I tell people about Red Folder, they automatically assume it means “end of life planning”. Well, I’m here to tell you that is NOT true! Red Folder is planning for the inevitable emergency in this amazing thing we call “Life”. Often, Murphey’s Law happens when we least expect it. We think everything is going well and then suddenly, BAM!
What is “Bam!”? Well, it could be a death in the family, or a family member is hospitalized and not coherent, or stuck overseas and unable to get back to you fast enough to tell you how to solve the problem at hand. What do you do? The mortgage payment is due and there’s a waterline break and your spouse usually handles those items!
Here’s my story and why Red Folder entices me so much.
Seven years ago, on January 14, I flew to Jacksonville, Florida with my 10 year old daughter to visit my parents and get away from the cold for a bit. It had been a long winter already and we still had a few months to go.
Everyone kept saying, “Are you excited to be going to FL in January?” My answer was “No, not really”. Something felt wrong about it, but I’d managed to get $20.00 plane tickets on (the now disolved) Skybus Airlines. I told them, “For $20.oo, I can’t not go see my parents. Life is short and you just never know what tomorrow will hold.” Little did I know how much that statement would change the course of my life from that trip forward.
My brother and I had been disagreeing on several things for a few years at the time of my trip. I arrived in FL at 8:00am and went to breakfast with my parents who picked us up at the airport. After dropping my dad off at home, my mom and I went shopping. We arrived back at the house at 1:15pm. Around 1:30pm, I noticed the light on their phone flashing, meaning they had a voicemail. It was a message from my brother Paul’s friend, Butch, asking my dad to call him. He sounded upset. I remember this moment like it was yesterday. This was the moment that my life changed. This is the moment that I realized “Life is very very short. Make every moment count.” My dad calls Butch back to learn my brother had been found dead in his bed just shortly before he called my dad. I can remember the look on my moms face. It was of terror.
I’ll spare you the details, but I will share with you, the next ten days were a nightmare. My trip was supposed to only be five days. Suddenly, my nice relaxing mini vacation to sunny Florida turned into a funeral and daily, miserable rain. Faces that would normally be thrilled to see my daughter and I now looked at us with pity and sympathy. I couldn’t stand it. I made myself the “go to person” for information. My parents were distraught and there was work to be done.
My brother had told my dad that his house was paid off. His car was paid off. He was debt free. He had mentioned to his friends that he had a will. He owned his own business and we weren’t sure if there were outstanding invoices with vendors or not. We had irate customers calling and not caring that he was dead. They wanted their products. We had zero access to any of his accounts, storage unit, etc etc. We even had to hack into his computer by GUESSING his password. We were quite lucky on that one.
I took it upon myself to start cleaning his house. The dust in his house had dust. Piles and piles of papers on top of three desks in his office, all covered in layers and layers of more dust. That week, I should have bought stock in Sudafed. I’m very allergic to dust and I’ve never sneezed so much in my life. People all thought my eyes were red from crying, but in fact, it was all the sneezing. My brother was a snob. He had clothes falling out of his large walk in closet. It was unreal the amount of clothes that we donated to different organizations.
But, and this is a big but, the hardest part was the paperwork. Where’s the deed to his house? Where is the pink slip to his SUV? Who is the broker for his stocks and bonds? Did he really have a will like his friends all said he created? Where is it? The list went on and on. It was up to me to discover the answers. Detective Marianne. Can you imagine the piles of paper piled up on desks? They went from my waist to my chin once they were dusted off. I went through thousands and thousands of pieces of paper trying to find answers. Many phone calls. Emails galore. Again, sparing details here but the short of the matter, I never found a will. He owed taxes and the bank ended up owning his house in the end. His business reverted back to the previous owner. I inherited his SUV. It took me every bit of ten days to get things straightened out. My dad had to go through probate just to be able to get access to anything of his.
ALL this because no one ever things a 45 year old man will die. Well, they do. I’m here to tell you, they most certainly do. And if you are not prepared for it, it won’t bother you – because you are dead and you don’t know what grief your family is going through.
If only he had a will. If only we knew what his final wishes were. If only… that list can go on and on. If only he had Red Folder. If Red Folder had existed at the time, he could have put all his information in there just in case something happened. We would have been able to carry out his last wishes without having to guess at them. We would have known where his will was (if there was one). Who brokered his stocks. How many bank accounts he really had.
But no one ever thinks a 45 year old man will die….
Point of my story? Make a will. Get Red Folder. Protect your family and your last wishes. No matter what your age.