Regardless of age, losing a spouse is difficult – and the impending “business” that comes along with it doesn’t make it any easier. This is why we should all ask ourselves at some point, “Am I prepared if my spouse dies?”. There are so many various aspects to being “prepared”, and although I can’t help with many of them, I can help with some simple suggestions to making sure you aren’t stuck with unexpected questions.
It’s not uncommon in marriages or partnered relationships for each spouse to take care of different bookkeeping tasks. For example, it’s very common for the husband to manage retirements funds – pensions, IRA’s, etc. While the wife may handle personal address books or paying bills. Take a minute and think about this. Not only what you may not know, but what your spouse may not know.
Here are some suggestions to putting this information in order:
• Begin by making a list over a week or two, and ideally an entire month. Make note of what “business” you do. How many passwords did you need online? How many account numbers on the phone? What about PINs? The results may surprise you. In today’s high tech yet overly scammed world, everything is secured under lock and key.
• Although it is best if both spouses can contribute to this exercise it is not a requirement. Either way, spend some time brainstorming together. We often will remember things when discussing them with someone else.
• It’s important to make a physical list of this information, whether typed or handwritten. What you shouldn’t do though is save this information online. Hackers will seek data that includes account numbers, logins, and passwords and this could lead to compromising your accounts and even identity theft. Even if you think it’s secure, there really is little guarantee that is true. Keeping this list with your most important documents – such as birth certificates, titles to homes and vehicles, etc – is going to be your safest bet, but make sure both spouses know where to find it.
What to include on your list:
Name and phone number of company, account numbers and any PINs associated. If using online management of account, include website URLs of where to login, login name and password, and any auto pay information. If there are specific people you work with at these companies, include their names.
If only one spouse is listed on the account, make an effort to add the other one. I recently witnessed an elderly woman at the DMV who was unable to renew her driver’s license because all the mail that came to the home was in her husband’s name. This is more common than many people realize – and often they don’t even know until they’re caught in jam.
• Home loan
• Home insurance
• Car loan
• Car insurance policies
• Health insurance policies
• Life insurance policies
• Bank accounts
• Credit card accounts
• Pension, IRA, annuities, etc
• Utilities – electric, water, gas, phone, trash
• Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
• Contact information for family and friends
• Contact information of bankers, retirement or financial planners, loan officers
• Contact information for doctors, dentists, pharmacies, veterinarians, etc (and a little info about what each one is for)
These lists will vary from person to person, so make sure to add your own ideas. Also be sure to update it when anything changes or is added – because hopefully you won’t need it for quite a few more years!