Stone Heart

6 Things To Do Before Your Spouse Dies

I’ll never forget the day I asked my mother, “Do you know what Dad has planned for you when he dies?”  He was seriously ill. She was having a hard time.

“Of course I do,” she replied. But when I pressed her for details, she couldn’t deliver.

But she made it abundantly clear: This was not a conversation she wanted to have.  I made it even clearer:  Avoidance was not an option.  Here’s what we did:

1. We had “The Talk.” I made my Mom sit down with my Dad and we looked at all the financial documents:  bank statements, investments, estate planning, etc.  This was not, by any means, an easy conversation.  Nerves were frayed.  My Mom glazed over.  My Dad lost patience.  I kept scratching my wrist (a nervous habit) until it bled.  But by the end, my Mom knew where every penny was and what arrangements he had (and hadn’t) made.

2. We assembled “The Team.” My Dad was very much a do-it-yourselfer.   Mom needed support. First on our list was to hire an estate lawyer and together with him, my sister and I and my parents, created a very good, tax efficient estate plan. Next, we helped her find an investment advisor and a CPA. Don’t hesitate to interview more than one investment advisor and CPA to find a good fit. My mom met with her team on a regular basis, until she passed 20 years later.

3. We updated documents. We made sure the Will, Power of Attorney, EVERYTHING reflected their latest info and current wishes.

4. We envisioned a future without Dad. My mom started thinking about living single: how much money she’d need to live on (a lot); how she wanted her money invested (very conservatively); and who would assist her with this (her team).

5. We had regular family meetings. These meetings, though often emotional, helped get everyone on the same page while Dad was still alive.  These gatherings included my sisters, spouses, all the grandchildren and we eventually had great grandkids crawling around too. My Dad let everyone know his wishes, especially for philanthropy and keeping the family together.  These meetings definitely drew us closer.

6. Mom talked to friends. She had several friends who’d lost their husbands, so she talked to them at length. They gave her great advice which really helped her see life goes on, happiness was possible.

Having done these things, by the time my father died, all my mother had to do was grieve. Every detail was in order. There were no surprises. All papers signed. All major decisions made. Her team was in place. Practically speaking, his passing was seamless. Emotionally, it was tough. But being prepared, made it a little easier.

Depending on your stage in life you may or may not have done these things. We should all consider what happens when our spouse dies, though, because unexpected things do happen. What kind of plans do you have in place for the unexpected or inevitable changes that happen in life? Leave me a comment below.

Comments & Feedback

  • Barbara J. Simon

    Part of my parents’ last illness and my taking over responsibility for everything was that I was able to plan their funerals in advance. I realized that I alone would be in charge and it could happen quickly. Since my grandfather and uncle ran a family mortuary, I was not as reluctant to take on this chore as some people would. I shopped for caskets, talked to morticians, picked songs and Bible verses, gathered notes for obituaries, and after a year’s stalling, finally paid for everything ahead of time. This locked in that year’s prices, and my father died a few months later. Having done all the heavy lifting ahead of time, I was able to focus on the softer more artistic aspects of the day – printed copies of the obituaries, flowers, the reception, and color schemes. Some people asked me “Did you plan all this? Would you plan my funeral?” It’s one of the best decisions I made during their elder care.

    • barbara huson

      Wow, Barbara, what a great daughter you are…and so efficient and organized. Well done!!! Thanks for sharing this…it’s a beautiful story.

  • Lisa

    Hubby has given me a number to call on a business card if he dies. This team works for my bank and will execute his will after he passes. They will even take care of things like cancelling his credit cards, passport , drivers license and forwarding the balance of his bank account to mine and telling me what kind of funeral he has organized and who he wants invited. His stock options in companies will be changed to my name and of course any other financial assets he owns. It feels good that he wants to make this easy for me when he is not around anymore. It would be hard to think about these things when in shock.

    • barbara huson

      That’s amazing, Lisa. What a thoughtful husband you have. And how fortunate you are to have all these details taken care of for you.

  • Lisa Geran

    You’re right Barbara, it’s such an emotional topic. I’m trying to finalize my will and wishes this year. I’m also trying to throw away a lot of stuff like old letters that I don’t really want discovered. When my friend’s mother died, he found over 200 lipsticks spread over 5 properties!!! They were everywhere, under the bed, the sofa, the refrigerator.…💄Don’t leave a museum of weird stuff for your family and friends to discover- they are grieving!

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Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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