Damon L. Jacobs: What does Mary Blanchett & Associates do to help people?
Mary Blanchett: We educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender population so we are ahead of the game. A lot of times we don’t have legally recognized relationships. So when a crisis happens, we can lose authority over ourselves. Most of those crises happen in health care. For example, I was recently hospitalized with a cardiac condition I didn’t know I had. But I have a health care proxy, which designates an individual to make medical decisions when I am unable to. When I was under anesthesia, my health care proxy could step in and make medical decisions for me. I also have a power of attorney so if I died all the money in my bank accounts would automatically go to that person, it doesn’t go into probate. The lovers we live with, and their children, don’t get anything if we suddenly pass a way without a will.
So there are a lot of things we can do to get our wishes actualized , even when we are unable to speak for ourselves. Individual Life Planning is looking at what we want and getting it written down right now using the tools available to empower us. It’s not that we have to be brilliant, it’s just that we need to know what we don’t know, get the information, and fill out the forms. Everyone was so thrilled with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was overturned. But if God forbid they die in combat or while in service, their lovers and partners don’t have any rights. They don’t have the right to bury. There is a form you have to fill out if you are not legally married in order for someone to bury you. People don’t know that. All these little details - these are not what you want to be hassled with during a hospitalization or a sudden death.
Damon L. Jacobs: And not something you want someone you love to be hassled with either.
Mary Blanchett: Certainly not. Over the years I hear all these stories about one partner having to go to into a nursing home, the other partner having no authority, and then the parents or family take them to a different state. Or, the person passes away and the lover had no authority to bury. All of these horrible inhumane things can happen if we don’t have our documents together. We don’t think about these things - we think it’s never going to happen to us. But I know that eventually I’m going to die. I know I’m going to have crises in between. I know I’m going to have new accounts and new beneficiaries to add to my list, I will have new relationships.
Damon L. Jacobs: This is really a gift to your loved ones. It is traumatic enough when someone you love dies, it is so much worse when there is confusion.
Mary Blanchett: You don’t want to have grief, loss, and confusion. As gays/lesbians we are often the ones who take care of aging parents. We usually don’t think about long term care until there has been an incident. Then you have to rush to learn about long term care and that is not the way to do it. Mom suffers, you suffer, your job suffers, your relationship suffers.
Damon L. Jacobs: A very close friend of mine passed away suddenly in February. I was not his power of attorney, but the person who was responsible had to uproot her life very unexpectedly to take care of his affairs. What made the shock and trauma easier was the fact that she knew exactly what he wanted, where everything was, and how to take care of his wishes, because he had been so well organized in the way you described.
Mary Blanchett: We spend to so much time in our lives donating our time and money to different organizations, but most don’t take simple steps to help our loved ones in the event of a tragedy. It can be done in one day.
Damon L. Jacobs: So what do you do to make this easier?
Mary Blanchett: First thing with clients is a two hour interview. I ask where you want to retire, who are your beneficiaries, do you want your lover on you HIPPA forms so your lover can get information from your doctor if need be? All these little things we don’t think about because in the heterosexual world if you are married, doctors won’t even question it. For myself, my ex-partner and I own property. We know that because we’re not married, when one of us dies, the other will have to pay taxes on the inheritance on the entire worth of the house. So we bought term life insurance and we are each other’s beneficiaries, so when the loss happens we will be able to pay it so the other person will own it. These are safeguards people don’t usually think about. You don’t want hardship to be added to your injury just because you are gay.
Damon L. Jacobs: How did you get interested in all this?
Mary Blanchett: I worked in long term care for 27 years. I’ve seen what happens when the healthy 42-year-old goes to their office job and a wall falls, and they have a brain injury and have to come to a nursing home for rehabilitation. They are single, no one has access to their bank account, their credit cards, their insurance. They lose their apartment, their credit rating, everything. Now they’re released six months later, ready to start life again, with all this to deal with. I always joke that I could be run over while texting crossing the street. You never know when these things can get us. I had no expectation to be hospitalized last March but it happened. My doctor couldn’t tell me enough times that I almost died. We just don’t know. I feel healthy now, I certainly didn’t feel unhealthy then.
Damon L. Jacobs: How are you now?
Mary Blanchett: I’m fine. We just have to be aware of these things. And we have to be aware of good doctors. I also refer to lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, financial planners. Why wouldn’t we help each other if we could?
Damon L. Jacobs: So Mary Blanchett & Associates if like one-stop shopping?
Mary Blanchett: Yes. I want to be the one stop shop for LGBT adults for all these things.
Damon L. Jacobs: This sounds pretty costly.
Mary Blanchett: Not knowing what lawyer go to, or what insurance broker to go through, or what policy to get, is a lot more costly. I give referrals to people I know and have worked with personally. If you go to the wrong person you will be paying a lot more for a lot less.
Damon L. Jacobs: And your services are for single people and couples?
Mary Blanchett: Yes. As a matter a fact I have a friend who recently was a victim of a hate crime. I gave him referrals. We want to educate each other with all the referrals we have. I have been doing this for gay people, straight people, unmarried heterosexual couples, in addition to my job as a nursing administrator for many years. Why wouldn’t I? Why would I want to see harm come to anybody? Eventually my friend Paul Frene said, “Why don’t you use all your knowledge to help our community?” That’s what I’m trying to do.
Damon L. Jacobs: Our community continues to have specific legal challenges.
Mary Blanchett: We are getting rights inch-by-inch. Like now we have hospital visitation. But if the E/R nurse doesn’t like you, you will be fighting about in court. Who wants that?
Damon L. Jacobs: How has NGLCCNY been helpful?
Mary Blanchett: I have met a lot of wonderful people at the M3’s (Monthly Mixers). I also have enjoyed attending the NGLCC conference that was in Washington D.C. and met wonderful people there. I think it’s about growing who we are and our connections.
Damon L. Jacobs: What advice would you give someone who had recently joined NGLCCNY and hoping to grow their business?
Mary Blanchett: I would say to get involved. Go to all the M3’s, meet as many people, get contacts. I just listed something on the NGLCCNY FaceBook page, no one is posting there, so use that. I was really happy when Richard Oceguera recently told me about a meeting between the Department of Labor and Social Security. We went to this meeting. I try to take advantage of every learning opportunity. I watch web seminars all the time, I’ve given web seminars. You don’t know where the next great idea is going to come from. The Chamber gives us many great opportunities if we take advantage of them.
Damon L. Jacobs: What else would you like NGLCCNY members to know about you?
Mary Blanchett: Life planning is effecting all of us. We are hopefully going to get older. We are likely to encounter some sort of health crisis, or our loved ones will, and we will be caregivers. All of the information I have after 27 years of experience is at hand. I think the NGLCCNY Chamber members can utilize that.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to grief and loss, HIV related concerns, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com. An initial free consultation is offered to NGLCCNY members, or people who are referred by NGLCCNY members.