The Mom Who Ran Out of Time

Having spent over 14 years handling elder issues, the one thing I have seen seniors do repeatedly is not plan for their passing because they think there will be time do it later. This naïve mindset causes so much frustration and anger that instead of leaving behind a legacy of love and fond memories, ill will, anxiety and stress become the fallout.

Two months ago I met Lea, age 23. Her mother, Mary, died a couple of months prior. Mary was in poor health for years and did not think of what would happen to Lea after she passed. Mary was a single parent in her 60s with no other family. Although her home was mortgage-free, it was still in her deceased parents’ name. Mary’s only source of income was Social Security, which was directly deposited into her bank account for paying household bills, utilities and grocery delivery.

Mary did not have any life insurance and only a few thousand dollars in savings. She did not make a will or any type of trust for her assets.

Lea dropped out of high school, spending the next four years as Mary’s caregiver. Lea never had a paying job.

When Mary passed away, Social Security stopped depositing money and the bank froze the account. Only Mary’s name was on it; Lea could not access it. Because utilities were paid from that account, notices from the utilities began arriving in the mail. Hospital bills and notices from collection agents also appeared. Additionally, the property taxes on the house Lea lived in that was in her grandparent’s name had to be paid. Lastly, her cell phone was disconnected.

It was at this time that I met Lea. She was a young woman with nothing in her name, no job or other source of income, no access to her mother’s monies, no transportation, no telephone and living in a house that the state assumed still belonged to her grandparents.

With no family and having lost contact with her friends from high school because of caring for her mother all these years, she was truly alone. She feared she would be homeless.

During the course of helping Lea out of this abyss, one thought echoed in my mind: “If only Mary had taken a few hours to plan for the day she would leave Lea alone, this could have been avoided.” Now, instead of grieving for her mother, Lea was cast into a life of uncertainty and fear.

It could be that Mary didn’t plan ahead because she was ill for years. But none of us should assume we will have sufficient time in the future to take care of our affairs and cause our loved ones to live the life of Lea. Do it now.

Senior Counsel Division
Alakea Corporate Tower, 1100 Alakea St., Ste. 1000
Honolulu, HI 96813
808-537-1868 | |


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