Taxes and Death Go Together

April is a happy month: along with the pollen, love is in the air.

What’s not to love about longer days, warm breezes, people cycling, swinging golf clubs or tennis racquets, jogging, walking dogs, pretty girls tossing manes of hair driving convertibles, and kids outside kicking balls?

April is tainted, however, for the other greening up of our spring also involves the paying up of greenbacks to our Uncle Sam. With the possible exception of accountants, the tallying up of our income and expenditures in mathematical fashion for review is about as much fun as a colonoscopy or root canal.

Like most people, I cuss out politicians, waste and fraud in government spending, the absurdity of our tax laws, and loopholes while filling in my tax-planner workbook for my CPA before I check it against Turbo Tax. Quicken and I have a love/hate relationship.

No wonder so many people postpone or ask for extensions. It’s inevitable like that other thing nobody escapes: death. So it’s the time of year my church reminds us to update and review our end of life plan as we do our taxes.

Huh? My generation of Baby Boomers — the generation who vowed we would never trust anyone over 30 while in college, who crooned along with the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” because it was so incredibly far away — struggles with the fact that we are now going to more funerals than weddings, and astonishingly of our peers. There’s even a bestseller, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Not really.
As I’ve told my daughter, who like so many young sleep deprived mothers spends a lot of time diapering and attending the short attention spans and endless demands of young children: “The days can be so long, but the years fly by.”

Often my age group looks at one another and gasps: “How did this happen? I still feel so young!” However, once there is a garden to tend outside a home, or children, portfolios, or vehicles, it’s time to make a will — then an exit plan.

I’m still grieving the loss of a dear friend, yet one reason that her services were a true celebration of life was that she was PREPARED. Emotionally, spiritually, and practically. Granted, not everyone will have a lengthy illness with that time to prep. Any of us can get hit by a bus or have a fatal health event.

Frankly, if an adult of any age has enough income to file a tax return, he or she should have a will and not just for the funeral service. Yes, there’s the matter of cremation or burial or medical donation of the remains, and prayers or poems and favorite music to select, but that’s the least of it.

Even young adults have possessions and maybe a pet. Young families need to stipulate guardians.

Where are the passwords for the executor (pick somebody) to access accounts, safes, documents, deeds and car titles, insurance, bank and credit card accounts, stocks and bonds and CD’s, and loans if applicable? Tax returns? Social Security? Birth certificate? Social media?
What people, clergy, doctors, service personnel, bosses, military, friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, alumni, and social groups need to be notified? What are the salient points about your life that need to be put in an obituary, and to which publications and institutions would you have them directed?

And of course the personal stuff… What favorite piece of jewelry, painting, or set of dishes should be divvied up before the grieving, or sometimes greedy, interested parties convene and try to figure this out under duress.

The longer people put off making an exit plan, the touchier the subject becomes. Older people think their beneficiaries are doing “will drill,” while younger adults just think they have plenty of time to get it done. Denial, fear, superstition, stubbornness, business, laziness, ambivalence, and ignorance can all be factors.

Certainly it’s not fun, but as diligently as people fight their taxes while alive, what the government can take from a person without a will is definitely a “giant sucking sound.” So if I wait for an April thunderstorm to drive me indoors to attack the death and tax workbooks sitting on my desk, I will just keep feeling bummed.

I am reminded of a great Peanuts comic strip that had Charlie Brown and Snoopy sitting on a pier overlooking water while watching the sunset.

Charlie Brown: “One day we’re going to die.” Snoopy: “And on every other day we’re not.”

Len Bourland can be reached at [email protected]

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