Resolving the uncertain death a tough task

October 26, 2005

Trying to gain control over the daily affairs of someone who has disappeared is no small feat –

as C. J. Woodward discovered this year.

The best friend of Kimberly Oswald Forbes, who vanished on Oct. 31, 2004, was forced into court to overcome that challenge. Once she gained conservatorship, Woodward could take action on Forbes’ behalf. Until that legal move had been taken, she even had one creditor laugh when she tried to explain the situation.

(See A year gone by and still no sign for an update on the case.)

“I think that she thought I was joking, and that Kim was just trying to get out of paying her bills,” said Woodward.

She said there are still many unresolved issues with Forbes’ holdings. For instance, her life insurance remains in limbo for seven years since no one can confirm her death. But at least Woodward can now pay the bills associated with Forbes’ Jeanette Road home and its upkeep.

“It was so overwelming to sit down and go through everything in someone’s life to try to piece it together. You have to sort out what has to be done and in what order,” she said.

Woodward said the experience, difficult as it has been, has taught her a good life lesson. She advises everyone to keep a file handy, in case of an accident or sudden absence, that contains the following information:

* A hard copy of a computer address book, or the password(s) to access that information.

* Copies of the driver’s license number for all family members and registration on all vehicles.

* A complete listing of accounts and insurance contacts.

* Vital statistics of all family members and recent photos. Include the mother’s maiden name of all adults and their place of birth.

* A will or some written legal directive that outlines what should be done with personal property and real estate in the event of an accident, death – or disappearance.

* Appoint a trusted individual with the power of attorney to act on your behalf in the event of an emergency.

* Date all records with the month and the year so that informational updates can be easily tracked.

* Add a second party’s name to your safety deposit box that will allow access even if you are not available. Keep copies of the original papers at home so they can be reviewed after hours if necessary.

* Even if you don’t want to add someone’s name to your checking account, designate on your signature card a person that can access the funds after your death.

Woodward also advises all women traveling alone to tell someone exactly where they will be, when they can be expected to return and who they will be with.

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