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Are you financially prepared for your death?
Let’s face it. No one ever wants to have “the conversation” or even think about the possibility of having your husband or wife pass away. Most people will procrastinate pre-planning or think that it won’t happen to them. It’s an easy topic to sweep under the rug and not face, but time isn’t always on your side. If death knocks on your door, do you know how to keep your family out of financial and/or personal crisis?
To avoid being overwhelmed, stunned or unprepared, have “the conversation” and make arrangements to make a will or trust, talk with a financial advisor regarding your investments and banking needs and know your spouse’s wishes regarding burial or cremation. All this will prepare you and relieve you of unnecessary stress in the event of a spouse’s death. This does not mean that the feelings of anger, loss and the big common question of “where do I start?” will not exist. They will. But, having a preset game plan will certainly pave the way towards emotional stability and help get you back on your feet.
If you have not put any plans into motion for the unforeseen death of a spouse, here are some basic steps to help:
- Make a list of all assets. Take inventory of all jewelry with a note to whom each piece should be willed to and the contents of all safe deposit boxes.
- Make a list of all debts including credit cards, loans (personal and business) and any bankruptcy information. Remember that this is not the time to be embarrassed about anything. Stay focused on making the future well planned and easier for each other.
- Contact an attorney to set up a will or a trust including all stocks, bonds, companies, insurance policies and anything else considered an asset or investment to be included in the will or trust with beneficiaries. Name an executor of the estate and indicate the beneficiaries including the proportions of the estate each will receive. If you do not have a will established, the estate will go through the probate process. If you have a trust, your attorney will discuss with you how this bypasses the probate process. If you cannot afford an attorney, most state websites have information for setting up Living Wills and Medical Power of Attorneys yourself. Just remember to get them notarized before you sign them.
- Make sure you designate a durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy for you and your spouse. This person will be making the decisions in the event you are not able. It is important for this person to know your wishes in everything, especially healthcare options and quality of life issues.
- If you have minors still living in your household, consider and ask the family members or friends you pick, if they would take guardianship if anything should happen to both parents at the same time. Have this in writing in your will and give a copy to the selected guardians.
- Know the wishes of your spouse in the event of death. Burial or cremation? Church service or small memorial? Cemetery choice or location of ashes to be dispersed? Don’t leave it up to the surviving spouse to choose for you. Take the responsibility for this decision to ease the way.
- Consider purchasing a life insurance policy that would help your spouse financially. In this way, stress of the loss of your income could be alleviated and the financial burden of maintaining for your household can be supplemented. By having an adequate life insurance policy, the financial protection would go a long way to easing the stress should a death occur.
After the death of a spouse, arrangements should be made with the funeral home. The death certificate is usually obtained from the funeral home or from the county health department. You will need to purchase additional certified copies of the death certificates, as many of the agencies and companies require one.
Have all legal and pertinent documentation available such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, social security papers, titles of ownership, insurance policy, military records and any other papers that will be needed for estate processing.
These are just a few important steps that can prepare you for this overwhelming event. Just remember that by taking these steps and having a definite plan, your family’s needs have already been met and you know that they will be taken care of in the event of your death. Don’t procrastinate. You care for your family on a daily basis. Why not continue to care for them after your death by planning for the future now?
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.