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Personal finance with Ralph and Al: Let someone know where your will is

Catawba College has been offering a one-hour-credit personal finance course led by retired (2002) Catawba College Professor Al Carter and Food Lion co-founder Ralph Ketner. The Post continues its coverage of the weekly class and presentations from guest speakers today.
By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
Wills and other legal documents important when someone dies or suffers severe injury are effective only if someone knows you have them and where you keep them, an attorney said.
Attorney Susan Shumaker said she advises her clients not to talk about whatís in their will while they are still alive. But children need to know if their parents have a will, she told a Catawba College basic finance class.
ěDonít go home and ask your parents to see the will,î she said. ěBut itís a loving question to say, ëIf something happens to you, how would I find out these information?í î
Children also should know the location of and some details about their parentsí insurance policies, mortgage papers, credit card information, bank and investment accounts, she said.
Shumaker advised against completing a will online.
ěYou donít cut your own hair, you probably donít change your own oil, I donít know why you would think you could draft a legal document yourself,î she said.
Students should ask their parents if they have a power of attorney, which gives someone the power to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
Husbands and wives usually name each other, and older parents often name an adult child.
Shumaker said she advises newlyweds to wait a few years before they sign a power of attorney if they havenít known each other for long.
ěYou have to be very careful who you grant those powers to,î she said. ěThere is a lot of trust involved.î
If someone becomes incapacitated by a car accident or a disease like Alzheimerís, a power of attorney will allow a trusted friend or relative to continue making mortgage payments, for example, retired Catawba College professor Al Carter said.
Shumaker warned students to proceed with caution if they are ever named a power of attorney.
ěMoney does strange things to people,î she said. ěYou donít have to be an evil person or even a bad person to do a bad thing if you have money troubles, you just have to have a weak moment and the opportunity.î
She encouraged students to consider a living will, both for themselves and their parents.
Life support? Organ donation? Cremation? A living will spells out these choices.
ěThey are instructions,î Shumaker said. ěThen you donít have to hope your family remembers what you wanted.î
Even siblings who have gotten along for years can end up fighting over a parentís end-of-life issues.
ěThey both have good intentions, but they have their own opinions,î Carter said.
Unlike a will and power of attorney, a living will should not be kept in a safe deposit box, Shumaker said.
ěYou canít get in there at 11 p.m. when the doctor needs to know what to do,î she said.
Shumaker urged students to find out if their parents have a healthcare power of attorney, which gives someone else the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, such as consent to surgery.
ěLife is full of surprises,î Shumaker said. ěThings happen, and theyíre not all good.î
If you love someone, she said, itís important to talk to them about a will, power of attorney, living will and healthcare power of attorney.
ěThey all have distinct functions and they can work together,î Shumaker said. ěBut theyíre only helpful if people know where they are and if they can get a hold of them.î
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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