I was reading in a magazine awhile back an article called "Saying 'I Don't'" which was about strengthening your marriage and your bank account by avoiding money mistakes. I was about ready to skip the article since I am no longer married (ouch.) but some of the tips caught my eye and while reading this article I pointed out a few things that I know Spencer and I should have done. I wanted to pass them along to you because I really would hate to see you in the same situation if the unthinkable happens -- you lose your spouse.
1. Assigning bill paying to just one spouse
While it seems super convenient to do it this way. Your partner is truly uninformed. Spencer took care of all the bills when we were married. Sure it was a fairly easy task to just get online and pay a few bills, but I really had no idea what he knew. Take our phone bill for example. He hopped onto Verizon at the beginning of every month, paid it, and sometimes made changes to the account based upon our usage and needs. I thought I knew what he was doing. But after he passed away I realized how little I really know about the details of our phone bill and where to find important information. I didn't realize how often I asked him simple questions about our minutes, end of contract date, free minutes, etc. When I had to take over the bills I was lost and overwhelmed with information that I assumed that I knew. This goes along with his insurance as well. I didn't think I needed to pay much attention to the detail. It was something he was used to dealing with and knew it from the inside out. I should have realized that when he got sick and wasn't able to take care of this information that I would be the one responsible for it. And when he died, I would be the one responsible for the unpaid medical bills and the only one to be able to contact his insurance.... Calling them blindly. I think that part of me thought I would have time to learn all of this. But you never know how much time you are going to have. Things can happen at the blink of an eye and really when you least expect it. Sit down and pay your bills together now. Don't wait. At the very least sit down with your spouse and have him/her show you the ins and outs of it all clear down to the nitty gritty. I promise it will have you headache and heartbreak if the worse were to ever happen.
2. Not having a Cheat Sheet
It is SO important to know all important bank account numbers, credit card numbers and pins, and passwords to every website and account. It's also a smart idea to know policy numbers and insurance information. I knew the majority of Spencer's passwords and information, and i'm very thankful for that. But when he got critically ill I was panicking because there were a few things that I didn't know. Such as his voicemail password, his secret questions to get into his bank account, his insuance number, his social security number or even where to find it, and some important healthcare information. When he got sick he was not able to talk to me and I had no idea if he'd ever wake up again. It was at the very top of my list that if he survived the ordeal that we had to sit down and talk about his passwords. Sure there are ways to get this information if you are the spouse.... But trust me it won't be easy, it will take a ton of time, and it will be the very last thing that you want to do if you lose your spouse. The very last thing. The next time you are talking with your spouse, sit down and create a list of all important information mentioned above AND even include the location of important documents such as insurance cards, birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificates, investment information, etc. Put it in a safe place where you both can find it quickly. If you can, try to update it every month or two so it stays current. You won't regret taking the time to do this. The last thing you need if something terrible happens is the stress of not knowing vital information.
3. Lack of preparation
Did you know that only 35% of adults have a will? So chances are, those of you reading this do not have a will. Most of you are probably quite healthy and don't think that you would need a will until you are older. Or perhaps you haven't even given it a thought. In the event of the unthinkable, the surviving spouse is going to be quite overwhelmed. There might be a case of you being on life support at some time (say you got in a car crash... Or a quick decline with a chronic illness) and your spouse not knowing your wishes. Would you want to be on life support? How long would this be acceptable? At what point would you want it discontinued? What measures would you want your spouse to take to keep you alive? Feeding tube? CPR? Restarting your heart? These are all questions, and more, that when put in the position of decision maker are so, so hard to deal with. And while its not easy making the decisions in a situation like that no matter what the outcome (im talking from first hand experience) it makes it a little bit easier knowing your partners wishes and knowing that you did what they wanted. Get a will typed up now. Even if it isn't a legal will, you should document each others wishes on paper and keep it in a safe place. You may talk about it, but in the midst of a crisis, you're going to forget important information, trust me. If you are married this is so important! Know what your partner wants in every aspect. Talked about ot frequently. The topic is not easy. It was probably the hardest thing Spencer and I discussed, but we brought it up all of the time because it was important and wishes do change!
I know that it is very hard to sit down and have a talk about something that you never want to happen, or think could happen to you. Try to put it into a positive light and don't get too caught up in the "what ifs". But do sit down and talk! As I said previously, it will save you SO much headache and a ton of heart ache and break if you do it now and not have to think about and worry about it when you are hurting more than you could ever imagine!!!