My Steve has been gone more than 2 years, but the red tape of his death still plagues me. What really bothers me is that a lot of this could have been avoided if we'd done just a few minor things along the way.
My friends have encouraged me to share these, as they were completely unaware how very little things can become mountains to overcome when a spouse dies. While it is my prayer than none reading this post will experience the untimely death of your spouse, I do want you to be informed and proactive.
- Get every utility in BOTH your names with the word OR between them. That includes power, water, gas, phone, cell service, alarm service, termite bond, etc. Because all these things were in my husband's name only, I had to get them in my own name and pay a fee for my trouble.
- Get every financial account in BOTH your names with the word OR between them. This will include checking, savings, retirement, investments, etc. If you don't, be prepared for a great deal of time and effort to get this settled. Oh, and don't leave home without a death certificate and a Letters of Testamentary with you to get them in your name.
- Get every automobile, boat, motorcycle, and property in BOTH your names with the word OR between them. Dealing with the agencies that handle these things is a nightmare.
- Get a will. Today.
- Make sure you know all your family finances...where your money is invested, how much debt you have, where all the legal papers are, and how and when bills are paid. (Have your power turned off in the middle of a horrible thunderstorm because your late husband paid that bill by automatic bank draft and you didn't know that.)
- Know where your tax documents are stored. Know WHO your family accountant is and how to get in touch with them.
- Begin NOW prepaying for your funeral...unless you have an extra $25,000 just laying around to pay that unexpected cost. Go ahead and buy your burial plots, too.
I am sure there are more, but those are the ones that gave me the biggest challenge. You will weather all of this. You will learn how to handle the family finances on your own. You will overcome all these obstacles. However, you can make things easier for yourself by being proactive now.