In the last six weeks we have supported friends who lost their son and a friend whose husband died. Walking with my friend whose husband passed has brought about a renewed focus to make sure we have all our papers in order should anything tragic happen.
*DISCLAIMER – I am not a lawyer and am not offering specific legal advise. I am giving you suggestions of where to start.*
1. Make a Will – Visit a lawyer or buy software and make out a will. Include plans for what will happen with your children, your final expenses, your debt, and your money. You can specify who is presumed to have passed first if you both die within a certain time frame. You can give care instructions for your children. You can set up a trust to provide for your children in the future. You can also bequeath individual items to specific people and record your wishes for your funeral service.
2. Make a Power of Attorney – Again, with a lawyer or software, make out a Power of Attorney that will allow your spouse to make decisions for you in the event you cannot. This will allow your spouse access to accounts and credit in your name only, as well as allow them to perform business on your behalf.
3. Make a Health Care Power of Attorney – Once again through a lawyer or software, make out a health care directive giving your spouse the right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Include your desires for life support and extreme measures, as well as your wishes to be an organ donor, if you so desire.
4. Make a file that includes birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards and other important identifying documents. Make sure you both know where this is and that it can be easily accessed. Include the kids identifying documents here as well.
5. Make sure both spouses know when and how to pay the bills. Even in today’s world, usually one person ends up managing the finances. Make sure you both know they system and how to use it.
6. Have all finance, insurance, and investment papers up-to-date and filled where you both can access them. Including banking records, safe deposit box keys, debt statements, mortgage information, auto loans, car or other vehicle titles, and property deeds.
7. Have a secure list of your log ins and passwords. These can be kept in separate documents with a number code matching them up if you worried about security. You can also keep them in a hand-written notebook instead of on a computer file. Just make sure your spouse can access your online accounts or shared accounts.
8. Talk to each other. I know it is a subject no one wants to deal with, but the truth is that sometimes you do. Talk to your spouse about your wishes and their wishes. Will she stay in the current house/location or move closer to family if something happens? Will he have to put the kids into school (if you homeschool) or pay for additional child care? Do you want to be buried somewhere specific or do you just want your spouse to do whatever they think is best? Are there extended family issues that could complicate an already difficult time (e.g. Cousin Steve always pops up and asks for money when he knows someone has received something)? Talk about it all and then get it in writing.