Estates: My in-laws are the example of why being prepared = peace of mind

Movie and song remixes are en vogue and have me hopeful that a director might take a crack at the iconic film "When Harry Met Sally." If remix of this classic had hit the box office before 2017, I would have urged my in-laws to show up at central casting.

They met in the early 1950s as middle school classmates in St. Louis. The alphabet had Joe Heggie sitting in front of Mary Etta Johnson and the rest, friends, is history.

Knowing these two, there would have been countless ways they would have clicked early in their courtship, but I bet Mary Etta's 1000-watt smile captured Joe's heart from Day 1.

Mary Etta's smile is contagious. It lights up a room, especially a room full of family and friends, and never ever disappoints when caught on camera. Central casting would have no choice but to feature The Heggies and watch Mary Etta's smile steal the opening act. Her smile remains her hallmark, even as time has begun to unravel her mind.

Dementia and its beginnings often echo undetected through a medical history. Sometimes it may even be covered by loving family and friends. Regardless of how dementia is diagnosed, it can result in a two-cornered affair: a patient and fear.

In Mary Etta's case, fear was taken completely out of the game. Mary Etta signed an estate plan that named a team and relief hitters to help her make decisions about health care and property, even the property she and Joe had owned jointly. After Joe died, the relief team played a critical role. The relief team's mere presence gave Mary Etta the gift of time and healing. In the days and months following Joe's death, Mary Etta was not stumbling at the starting line. Her line up was set and her team resolved legal questions and made decisions.

Mary Etta set her team in four documents: 1. health care power of attorney; 2. property power of attorney; 3. will and 4. revocable trust. These documents are accessible to everyone 18 years and older. People who are healthy should consider the documents now, even if their medical profile is uncomplicated. Once a medical alarm sounds, it is often impossible to unring. For an aging parent or family member who lives out of town, considering naming a trusted adult as a signor to a bank account. Then, if the unexpected should happen, at the very least there is a person who can pay bills.

Now more than ever, Mary Etta's team is more than family members' names on her roster. It is living thing with a personality and a pulse, one heartbeat working for Mary Etta and her legacy, which will include her dazzling smile.

• Corinne Cantwell Heggie is a principal of the Heggie Wochner Law Firm LLC in Northbrook. Corinne helps people avoid asset loss, court battles and taxes, with wills, trusts and powers of attorney. She lives in Glenview with her husband, who is also her law partner; her family is active in sports, ministries that support women and children in crisis, and Boy Scouts.

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