Man, real life is just NOT going to give me a break lately! Sorry! But it’s also awesome that I’m still able to DO so much and keep up with what I’m being asked to do. So I will take this all optimistically.
Anyway. The lawyer.
First of all, we used the Crowdrise funds to pay for it, which I felt weird about, but that’s precisely what that fund is for. So it was $650 NOT out of my pocket. Yay! Thank you everyone who donated to that. I love you. For reals. I’ve put off this legal appointment for a long time because I simply couldn’t afford it.
We were recommended to use a particular elder care lawyer, who had a lot of dealings with ALS patients. For lack of knowing what the hell we were doing anyway, we went with him. He had the stereotypical swanky corner office with floor to ceiling windows, nice couches. I was completely intimidated, I won’t lie. Everything about the place said “You can’t afford this.”
We explained what my situation was. Dying of ALS, need to get my affairs in order. We explained what we wanted. Answers on particular laws and financial advice. I’d filled out a questionnaire (why does that word have two Ns? Millionaire doesn’t. Weird.) that detailed my pathetic assets. Which basically amounted to the life insurance policy through my employer and a little bit of 401k, and my house. Which I still owe almost everything on because I’ve only lived there a year.
(Goddammit. One fucking year. FUCK!)
I told him I was planning to sell the house and buy something single-story. He looked at me like I was on drugs and told me he would absolutely not advise buying another house. I’m not going to get any financial benefit out of it, he told me. It’s going to be nothing but a money sink. Consider renting. There are laws that say landlords HAVE to let you remodel to be ADA compliant. There’s subsidized disabled housing, too, but the wait list is like 2 years and I’m not even actually disabled yet so I can’t even START that process. So why he brought it up I don’t know.
Danielle (my bestie and primary caregiver to be) and Gecko (my brother and finance manager when I die) were with me, and both had a lot of very good questions. Danielle asked about Medicare and Medicaid, what they would cover, how would we/what will be appropriate procedures to move me to assisted care living, ten fifteen twenty years down the road when I need it?
He looked genuinely surprised. “Ten years? Did the doctor give you that long?”
Um. “I have an extremely slow progression,” I told him. “Two years since I noticed a problem and I’m still walking.”
“OH. Oh okay. Okay. Buying another house is NOT so far fetched,” he told me. “Usually when people come to me, they have a small handful of years left. Three maybe. Buying a house you’re only going to have for three years is not advised, but you’ll get benefit out of it if you live there for ten.”
We talked about in-home care vs assisted living. How much worth you have and how much you have to use up before Medicaid kicks in. Living on SSI and how much money you get to keep (hint: HARDLY ANYTHING). In assisted living? It was like $20. That’s all you get. They take care of your housing and food and medical care, sure, but entertainment? Clothes? Toiletries? if you have a cat? You’d better figure it out because $20 is all you get. If you live at home you get to keep more of it, but of course you have to deal with mortgage and bills and food on your own. It’s REALLY not a lot.
So, hope you’re independently wealthy! Cause otherwise your life is going to be small and hollow. Sorry your disease sucks, but let’s make it worse by bogging you down with money woes and bureaucracy and complicated decisions! What can you afford? Nothing! A small bed in the corner of a nursing home somewhere where we’ll tuck you away there until you die.
We talked about executors of estate, who I want to have as my finance controller, who I want to be in charge of medical decisions. He gathered information and after the appointment he mailed me papers to certify all of that. He told me to get my living will in order and spread copies of that to everyone. He also said we need to draw up my will to state who gets what portion of what assets I’ll have, and I can attach a sheet later dividing up physical goods.
I kind of froze. Who gets what? I don’t fucking know. I threw out some percentiles, and Danielle insisted she did not need to be figured in there anywhere but if anyone deserves ANYTHING when I die then holy fucking SHIT is it Danielle. My brother Justin a close second. Gecko third, for being willing to deal with all my debts and shit when I’m dead.
Though I DID find out that when I die, Gecko will NOT be responsible for dealing with my debts. With very small exceptions (that I do not have), those debts get written off when I die. “I’m not suggesting you go run up your credit cards,” he cautioned with a shrug. “But.”
When we left, my brain was full of doom and money and gloom and responsibility and numbers, so many fucking numbers. What’s fair. What’s right. What’s necessary. Next steps. Long term, but not long long term because you never know. I was keenly aware of my situation. How little resources I have. How much money it’s going to take to keep me alive. How little time I have to save any of it.
I was completely overwhelmed, and really wishing I drank at all.
It’s a fucking complicated thing, dying. And it seriously is unfair that this diagnosis does not come with a lawyer, an administrative assistant, and a kitten.