Writing your own obit

When I was a very young reporter assigned to write obituaries, an elderly colleague (a woman of about 45 years old) gave me some good advice:  “If you want to be sure you get a good obit in the paper, write it yourself!”

Which, lately, a lot of us have been doing. At least in our heads. Regardless of age, sex, health, whether we are still working or retired, most if not all of us are looking at a worst case scenario if we get “it”, and don’t survive “it!”

At some point most people realize, for the first time, they are not immortal. That their time is limited. That one of these days — despite family, friends, kids and grandchildren, a paid up mortgage and a low-mileage car — this is all going to end. But this is the first time in any of our lifetimes that we have all faced our mortality at the same time. The realization that this could be it. We are all, literally, in the same boat. Turns out the inevitable could be very soon. As in days or weeks. And what happens when/if that happens? The planning we meant to do someday may be long overdue. What if this is someday?

We don’t have a cure or vaccine. Yet. But we’ve got maybe the next best thing for you. A top-notch pilot and navigator to help us, in a sense, write our own obit. And make it a good one. I asked Tom O’Rourke to be my guest on Wednesday, April 14 on our Your Turn radio show.  It will be archived on here so you can listen again, listen later and hopefully pass it on to a friend or coworker.


Tom is a well-known tax attorney and estate planner. He’s worked for the IRS for many years. I asked him what we — you, me, him — should be talking about today. What are the things we all should be doing, sooner rather than later, to make sure we do the right thing. The smart thing.

“In the past several weeks I have been getting questions about estate planning tax issues related to the coronavirus,” O’Rourke said.

“I have noticed an enhanced interest in estate planning during the current coronavirus pandemic. I have been getting a significant number of calls from clients who want to make sure that they have everything in order in the event the worst happens. I have also been getting calls from people whom I have never met who want to get some basic estate plan in place.”

Here are some of O’Rourke’s suggestion

“The basic estate plan includes powers or attorney and some mechanism for distributing your assets in the event of death.

“At the present time an advance medical directive, also known as a health care power of attorney, is essential. This document accomplishes two important goals. It names an individual of your choosing to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. It also includes end of life instructions (a living will) that specifies what actions you wish to have taken on your behalf if you are terminally ill, in a vegetative state, if you are unlikely to recover. Do you wish to be kept alive by artificial means (i.e. a ventilator).

“An equally important tool in any estate plan is a durable financial power of attorney. This allows an agent of your choosing to manage your financial affairs if you are incapable of managing your own affairs.

“When most people think of estate planning they think about a will. Although a will is very important, most people have many assets that will not be affected by their wills such a jointly owned property, and assets for a beneficiary is designated, such as life insurance, TSP and annuities. The important point to emphasize is that everybody needs to specify how they wish to have their assets distributed following their death. This can be a will, a trust, or by beneficiary designation.

“I have also been getting a number of questions about changes in the tax law that are part of the Cares Act. These questions generally relate to the following:

  1. “The amount of any rebate a person may get and what do you need to get this rebate.
  2. The ability to make a penalty free withdrawal from an IRA or other tax deferred plan.
  3. The waiver of the required minimum distribution for 2020.”

If you have questions for Tom, send them to me (mcausey@federalnewsnetwork.com).

And hang in there!!!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

Quarantine is a word we are all hearing a lot these day to say the least. The origin of the word is from the Italian words quaranta giorni, which translates to 40 days. This is because in the 14th century, to protect cities that were on the coast from plagues, ships arriving in Venice from ports that were infected were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing.

Source: CDC