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In the News

An Organizer Who Puts Her Heart into Her Work

Kiplinger Retirement Report, February, 1997

When someone close to you dies, it takes time to grieve and then to begin the journey from loss toward rebuilding a meaningful life.


If the deceased person cared enough to organize his or her affairs and leave behind full instructions, that makes the journey shorter. Jeanne Smith of Palo Alto, California, knows this better than most of us.


A Loving Gift

The day before he was scheduled to undergo a routine hernia operation, Smith's husband Dave Kline took her aside and detailed his hopes and dreams for her and their two children, 3-year-old Robb and baby daughter, Aymie.


In what some might view as an overabundance of caution, he went over the written information he'd prepared so she'd know how to settle his estate, obtain veterans and Social Security benefits, arrange for his cremation and manage their affairs.


He'd even prepared their income taxes in advance and planned to drop them off at their accountant's house later that night. He told her that he wanted her to feel free to remarry, to find a loving partner and father for their children.


Dave had prepared well for the known hazard of surgery. But life dealt an unexpected blow. Dave was killed in a collision with a drunk driver on the way back home from delivering his taxes. Smith lost her husband that night in 1978, but his thoughtful preparation was a loving gift that has influenced her life from that day on.


Three years later, she fulfilled Dave's vision by marrying her high school sweetheart, Gene Smith who subsequently adopted her children. (They've since had another daughter, Sara Anne.) In l987 and 1989, she helped care for her parents and organize their affairs before they died.


After her father-in-law died in 1991, Gene suggested that she do for others what her first husband had done for her. Smith accepted the challenge and the following year started an estate organization business called Exit Stage Right. (P.O. Box 60794, Palo Alto, CA 94306; (650) 493-3948.) She created a packet of forms and information that are the underpinnings of a survival guide for families in times of crisis.


Today Smith is busy helping individuals and families organize their estates. In addition, she and an attorney established a business called Continuity, Etc., to publish their Business Power of Attorney and Information Management System, which acts as a durable power of attorney for sole proprietors of small businesses who are concerned about who will run their business if they become ill or disabled.


But the work Smith does for families is closest to her heart. She says her goal is to inspire and help parents and spouses to leave their affairs in order for the benefit of their children and loved ones. She believes this "final gift" is priceless. "It says 'I care enough to care for you after I'm gone,'" she explains. puzzle piece