Monday, December 2, 2013

10 Things to Leave My Husband When I Die (or Vice Versa)

I hope either option will be a LONG time away but a friend of the family died last night and now people are scrambling to get to the funeral (not us as we weren't as close to them as others in the family) and then it reminded me of the many times, when I was doing social service work, someone would land in our office in this exact situation.

They would still be shell shocked from the death of a spouse and then, after the dust settled from the funeral and friends and family went home, they would be left to figure out what to do.  A few were well set up due to previous planning but the vast majority were left near homeless (sometimes actually homeless) because, well, people don't usually do a lot of planning for the death of them self or their spouse, and the surving spouse can be left with legal bills, a greatly diminished income, debt up to their ears, etc.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post.  When I die (or if the hubby goes before me) I want the one of us left to be relatively set financially (and emotionally and socially as well).  Here's what people should be left upon the death of a spouse:

  1. A paid off house
  2. A newish, paid off car
  3. No debt
  4. A life insurance policy
  5. A Will, Living Will, and Medical Power of Attorney
  6. A passive income stream
  7. A paid for and arranged funeral
  8. A list of important info 
  9. A social safety net
  10. Things to do, places to be
And here's why:
  1. With a paid off house and no mortgage to pay each month, the surviving spouse has #1 an asset that can be sold, and #2 a place to live until they decide what to do without worry of being evicted/foreclosed on.
  2. A newish, paid off car gives the surviving spouse a mode of transportation and no worry about having the car repoed if they can't make the payments.  Newishness makes the car less likely to break down leaving them stranded and/or with big repair bills to pay.
  3. No debt should be the standard for everyone, regardless of age.  You don't want to be in the midst of the death of a loved one while at the same time juggling creditors and hoping not to be forced into bankruptcy.
  4. A life insurance policy will afford the surviving spouse a clump of money to tide them over during the death and morning period; it will give them the money to pay for everyday expenses as well as money to make decisions about their future without having to worry about finances.
  5. When someone dies without a Will or is incapacitated without a Living Will and Power of Attorney, it makes the situation so much more complicated.  The probate process can be complicated and expensive for the surviving spouse and the last thing you want when you are mourning is a legal tangle to deal with.
  6. A passive income stream left to the surviving spouse is a wonderful bonus that can mitigate everything from paying regular monthly bills to giving the spouse options for their future.
  7. We used to live next to a windowed, elderly lady.  She had no children and no family but had lots of friends.  When she died, I found out that she had planned out and paid for her funeral in advance which was one of the best ideas I'd ever heard of.  There was no scrambling for funds to pay for the funeral, there was no guessing how or what to do in regards to the funeral, and there was no pressure on friends to take on such a responsibility.  Arranging for your funeral and paying for it long before you pass away is a great gift to leave your friends an family.
  8. It's amazing how many people don't know a lot about their spouse's/family's important info.  When a client would come in after the death of a spouse, I would ask them "did he have a will?  Where is it?  Did he leave investment accounts? With what institutions and what are the account numbers?  Who are your creditors?  How much is owed to them?"  And the questions would go on and the answers were almost always "I don't know."  Sorting that kind of thing out after a spouse dies is time consuming and needlessly complicated.  By leaving a list of everything from social media passwords to the location of important documents to financial account information, leaves your spouse with fewer problems to sort out after the fact.
  9. One thing many people don't think about leaving their spouse if they should die is a social safety net.  This problem is more common with men whose spouses die than with women, as women often keep in touch with a wide range of friends and family while many men let their wives keep up the social aspects of the couple's life.  The remaining spouse needs the social support of friends and family before, during, and far beyond the funeral and it is an important part of keeping the remaining spouse active and busy and not in danger of succumbing to depression or worse.
  10. It is important that both spouses keep active as they age.  Even though they may not be working, having places to be and things to do (bowling league on Monday, walking group on Tuesday, book club on Wednesday, etc) creates a structure during the day and it is this structure which can ease a person into widowhood by giving them a reason to get out of bed each day. 


  1. This touched a huge cord with me. My father died in a car accident when i was 27 while travelling in another state. Think bureaucratic hassle while took 6 months just to get death certificate. Then started the nightmares for me as my mom is stay home who doesn't know how to even sign a chequebook. No will, financials were only know by dad. I had to literally dig through 30+ years of financial documents accumulated by dad in folders and folders. I gave up my job came back home and took over mother, sister and grandparents. 3 years it took for me just to get permission from court to get my mother named heir of my father's estate even though my father's BF is a financial lawyer and accountant. My father had a dozen accounts in each bank of over 9 banks, stocks, GIC, business interests and land. All money was frozen. Luckily my dad had huge life insurance policy, about 5 years of living expenses worth, which took care of us till we could access the rest of the money. Also my dad kept every piece of financial papers to ever land on his desk. Now I am 90% done with it and hopefully complete it by next year. So please please at least make a will and update it every year. I feel so bad now that I was not able to grieve my wonderful dad properly as I was so stressed out all the time, running around ragged. So please spare your loved ones the pain.

    1. Wow I wish I could say that was a rare situation but I think many people find themselves similarly impacted when a loved one dies unexpectedly. My condolences on the loss of your dad and all of the stuff you had to go through!

  2. After the death of my step-father I learned that assets that have an assigned beneficiary are not part of the will and are not probated. Benefits are paid out upon receipt of a death certificate and proof of identity. If all assets are held jointly and/or have beneficiaries, maybe the only reason to have a will is in the case of both spouses passing away at the same time? Maybe you or a reader will have insight into this.

    1. Good info. I don't know too much about the who Will/probate process but that is definitely stuff to learn way before you need it!

  3. I've got all those things in order except for 6 and 7. My in-laws donated their bodies to science for research, so when they died, they were taken away and their ashes were returned a few months later. They did it because they didn't see any sense in wasting money on a funeral.