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Helping to settle a friend’s estate, I promised myself that I won’t leave a mess – or at least, that I will try not to.

Passing on keepsakes and grandmother’s china

Last spring, I shipped my grandmother’s china and linens to my nieces and nephew: left to my peripatetic daughter, they would only get lost or broken.

This spring I started putting labels with names and addresses on the back of pictures, inside the covers of books and on the bottom of lamps and other things I would like to give to specific people in memory of our days together. Then I realized that some of them are as old as me. They might not outlast me or might not have long to enjoy these gifts if they do. Are there things I should part with now to say, “Those were happy days we spent together. I am glad we met.”?

I planned a big spring cleaning, selling things online, and a bigger one for people to pick up unwanted furniture and heavy mirrors.

Updating estate planning documents

I looked over my estate planning documents and decided to add to them, not for when I am gone but for when I may need help to stay where I am.

The first step would be to put myself on the Star Plus Waiver List (1-888-377-6377). If I come to the top of the list and don’t need help, I will go to the bottom and start over. If I come to the top of the list and do need help, I may be able to get 30-50 hours of home health and homemaker care per week. That could help me stay home longer, maybe indefinitely.

The second step would be to get a caregiver’s journal and start recording the basics in order to establish a baseline: weight, height; daily O2, blood pressure, heart rate, skin elasticity, sleep, usual/unusual urination/defecation. Adding a record of diet and exercise might help me drop that “covid 19.” Recording what I like, what irritates me and what I find comforting might guide some future caregiver and make the days more pleasant for us both.

At my age, I can’t duck disability and death. But I can smooth the road.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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