A few years ago, I was moved by an impassioned speech given at one of our Regional Convention Auxiliary meetings. Kathie Bailey-Todd, only a couple of weeks following the tragic death of her husband, G. Y. Bailey, thought it important enough to make the trip to Oklahoma City to make sure everyone understood that you never know what tomorrow may bring. It just not something you ever want to think about, but being prepared is probably one of the most important, loving things BLET and Auxiliary members can do for their families. This information is directed at our retired members as well, so rather than laying this newsletter aside thinking you’ll read it later, you need to read it ASAP to make sure your intentions are in writing and on file.
Most all railroaders are covered by some sort of life insurance policy that is provided for them in their collective bargaining agreement. These life insurance policies require naming a beneficiary, which is most often done when the railroader is first eligible for the insurance. After the initial designation, life often happens. Unfortunate as it may be, railroaders seem to be more susceptible to experiencing a divorce, and all too often, the initial beneficiary designation is forgotten and never changed as life changes occur. Even if you have been married 50 years, does your spouse know about the insurance? For retirees, policies can still exist even though you may not have a current relationship with a railroad or the railroad you worked for is no longer operating.
The most important things to remember concerning life insurance are:
- You are aware of the policies that exist in connection with your railroad employment. If you are unsure about insurance in connection with your railroad employment, you can contact your Division’s Local Chairman or other local officers.
- Your designated beneficiary is up to date and on file with the current insurance company or Plan administrator of the policies that you are covered by. If you have experienced any life changes since qualifying for any insurance policy, notify the insurance company of a possible need for change. If you do not remember whether a beneficiary has been designated, call the insurance company to verify.
- Your policies and information are kept in one place for easy access and are secure. The simplest way to make sure everything is easily accessible if needed, is to keep copies of insurance policies with wills, powers of attorney, etc.
- Your spouse or other trusted family member or friend is aware of the policies and information, and where they are located.
If you stay up to date on your insurance policies, it makes the process easier on your family and ensures the insurance carrier pays legitimate claims.
Also keep in mind that the above advice should be followed when it comes to a 401(k) or other personal retirement plans. These types of plans also have beneficiary designation forms, just like life insurance policies do, and the forms need to be kept up to date in order to assure that the proper person is the beneficiary in the event that something happens to you.
Whether you are 24 or 92, you should have a will indicating your intentions in the event of your death. As we have seen this last year, there has been an increase in the number of on-duty deaths on the railroad. It is still a dangerous place to work. Of course, it can be just as dangerous driving your car to Home Depot. No one knows when their time will come, nor do they want to think about it, but that is the very reason why everyone needs to be prepared. There are many ways to make your intentions known, even more so if you have under age children. The size of your estate is a consideration when choosing a method. You can see a lawyer, visit a law library or office stationary store, buy a software program, or even download wills from the internet. There are many ways available to make sure you are covered.
In addition to having a Last Will and Testament, there are other documents you should consider, such as a Living Will and Directive to Physicians, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Designation of Health Care Agent, and depending on your relationship, a Durable Power of Attorney for other than health care purposes.
Once these documents are in place, you can rest easy that your wishes will be followed, and it does bring some peace of mind. A safety deposit box may be the best place to keep important original documents, such as wills, powers of attorney, and insurance policies, with copies kept in your home files. Safety deposit boxes, at least for now, are also tax deductible if you itemize.
Regardless whether you are rich or just getting by, every one needs to make provisions for the future. Please take this information and discuss it with your spouse, loved one or friend so that if the time comes, they do not have the additional burden of trying to sort through everything while they are still missing you.
Stay Safe Out There!