Paul and I have new wills and updated trusts, power of attorney for property, and power of attorney for health care. It’s a good feeling.

I love estate planning.  Thanks to wonderful things like life insurance, pensions and retirement accounts, there are good odds that I will be a modestly wealthy dead woman. It tickles me to play provider and philanthropist with my estate plan, not having to worry one hair on my dead head about saving for tomorrow.

I learned the joy of estate planning from my mother, Norma. I did not inherit Norma’s financial acumen or fiscal frugality. From her witness, though, I did absorb the blessings of a well-planned estate.

After my father died just short of his 60th birthday, my mom could live comfortably thanks to her good stewardship and life insurance from Lutheran fraternal companies that were predecessors to Thrivent. I took note: Being a widow is hard, being a widow worried about money would be very hard.

As a widow, Norma not only planned her estate, she took out life insurance policies to help her children pay estate taxes. In 1990, mom learned she had pancreas and liver cancer. There was no cure, but there were treatments that gave her (and us) good time.

On one visit mom showed me her notebook detailing distribution of the personal property–household items–not found in her will, and shared her guidelines for distribution of unspecified items: first choice to the person who gave it to me; second choice to a person who needs it; third choice to a person who wants it. Things that no one wanted or needed were to be donated or recycled. “If I catch a whiff in heaven that you and your brother are fighting over a thing,” mom said, “I will haunt you both.”

During that conversation mom mentioned that, for estates of her size, the State of Wisconsin was reducing estate taxes 20 percent a year. I knew my mother enjoyed paying only the taxes she owed and not a cent more. “When will it be down to zero?” I asked.

“January 1, 1992,” she replied.

“Then I don’t have to worry about you dying until 1992,” I said.

On January 1, 1992, we celebrated. My mom had outlived State of Wisconsin estate taxes. Norma Edison died on March 17, 1992, leaving her affairs in good order.

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One Response to Willing

  1. Paul Milner says:


    What a great story and we will make sure that all your beneficiary choices are in order this afternoon for all your policies. I am glad that you are taking care of this. Did you know that over 50% of the population die without leaving a will, too many also die with out up to date beneficiary notices on retirement accounts, life insurance, etc. Glad you are taking care of all of this.

    Now your mother had an important date in mind – 1992 – What’s yours :-)))


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