Annie's Mailbox for March 19, 2011: Encourage families to make final arrangements early

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Dear Annie: I would like to thank you for the many times you've reminded readers to take care of important medical, financial and end-of-life decisions. I did that years ago and have a legal will and power of attorney. Over the years, I also gently requested that my parents do the same, but they chose to ignore me.

Although it is too late to help our family, please continue to tell everyone how important it is to make their requests and wishes known and put into writing. The difficult decisions that must be made when a family member becomes incapacitated or passes away suddenly and without warning can be made easier with just a little planning. Everyone should ask themselves if the following information has been given to someone they trust to carry out their wishes and requests:

The names of their doctor, lawyer and whoever they have appointed to make decisions for them should they become unable to do so.

Whether they have a legal will and Health Care Power of Attorney and where they are located. (Be aware that banks require a signature on file and a key in order to search for a will in a lock box.)

Whether they are responsible for any other family members and, if so, what provisions they have made so that person will receive care if needed.

Whether they have life insurance.

Whether they have cemetery plots and any special requests for the type of service they would like to have.

Even an independent and private person should not have a problem with making sure this information is available to the person they want in charge in an emergency. It's not about giving up control of your assets. It's about enabling your loved ones to do the right thing when the time comes.

— Been There, Done That the Hard Way

Dear Been There: Every person should bring this column to the next family meeting. These are difficult conversations to have, but they are necessary. Thank you for giving our readers a push in the right direction.

Dear Annie: Please help me. I seem to have hurt my precious granddaughter with only the best intentions.

I am 82, and she is 21 and doing well in college. I sent a letter in a care package that included all kinds of healthy food. I started the letter saying, "If this is none of my business just tell me so," and continued with, "I think you are so busy that you don't realize you have gotten careless with your figure."

My granddaughter is gorgeous and so nice, and I never thought this would hurt her. We are good friends. There is nothing she or my daughters could not tell me. I have apologized. Her mom has said to drop it, and I will.

My granddaughter and I chatted at Christmastime, but I really don't think it's so wrong for a grandmother to be involved. Was I out of line?

— Sad Grandmother

Dear Grandmother: Sending the box was fine. Adding a letter that chastised her about her weight was guaranteed to hurt, no matter how well-intentioned. You have apologized. She will get over this. But please don't do it again.

Dear Annie: This is for "Phil from Philly," whose friend sticks his hands in the ice bucket. I have a solution — a pasta scoop! It comes in various sizes and has only one handle, and the prongs help keep the ice from slipping out. You can find a variety from plastic to silver. We keep one in the ice bin at all times. It's pretty sanitary and easier to use than tongs.

— Donna

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