When deciding on a title for this post, I hated all of the ones I created. The truth is no one likes to talk in "polite company" about either of these topics: death or finances. But thanks to Ben Franklin, we all know that "the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes", so it is best to be prepared.
I clearly remember sitting in the Estate Attorney's office. Our boys were 3 years old. Joe and I were planning our first trip away since having children, just the two of us. My parents had graciously offered to watch the boys while we traveled, the first of many years which they stayed with the boys. We knew how lucky we were to be able to have some alone time as a couple, and that the boys could spend quality time with their grandparents. A "win-win".
Yet sitting in the lawyer's office, it did not feel like a win-win. I was very emotional, answering questions about guardianship of our young twins should we die while on the plane or at some point during our trip. I became more emotional as we discussed Joe's and my decisions relating to Living Wills. When was it acceptable to consider us truly "dead," so that the other would have the authorization to tell the doctor that it was okay to take them off of life support. Mind you, Joe and I had discussed these topics before the meeting. Especially guardianship of the boys. However, putting our choices in writing and signing made it painfully final and REAL. I recall crying softly in this stranger's office. Joe held my hand. The estate attorney must have been accustomed to this reaction, because he had Kleenex readily available. I'm a visual person with a vivid imagination, and I remember "seeing" Joe laying in a hospital bed connected to tubes and wires as we were determining the details of an Advanced Directive. It broke my heart. Little did I know that scene would act itself out in real-life years later.
Many times during our marriage, Joe would persuade me to discuss our deaths and the issues surrounding them. He was the realistic one. I never wanted to discuss this possibility. I was okay with pretending it would never happen. We were so young! Why worry about something that wouldn't happen for a very long time? Or in my "lets pretend" mind, never! But Joe would always appeal to my practical, planner side, and then we would sit and discuss another aspect of our deaths.
Sometimes our discussion was regarding life insurance options. Multiple times it was about guardianship for the children at various ages of their lives. Who should be the executor of our wills. Should it be the same person for both? What about funeral arrangements? Do we want to be cremated or buried? What songs would we like to be played at our service? Were there special items we wanted to pass along to our children? Whatever we do, lets make sure the boys' college is fully paid from any life insurance benefits, if possible!
All of these choices were difficult to make, but I am so grateful to Joe for convincing me to discuss and make them with him. When he was in the Colorado Hospital following his accident, I knew what he wanted as it related to his medical care. I knew how to honor him for his memorial. And I knew exactly where all of our financial documents were and who to contact for help. As I told many people in my early days as a widow, Joe was taking care of us even in death.
I want to offer a recommendation to each of you: plan now for your death or the death of your spouse, parent, etc.
Simply put - be prepared! Planning helps to alleviate any additional stress on your loved ones after your death. In additon, understanding the wishes and financial situation of your loved ones will help you reduce stress on yourself should they should pass away before you.
Be prepared FINANCIALLY!
Meet with an Estate Attorney and prepare your Will, Living Will/Advanced Directive, guardianship, trusts, other issues
Purchase life insurance policy(ies).
Help your loved ones to be more prepared EMOTIONALLY!
Discuss things you don't want to burden your Loved Ones with after you die.
And ask the same questions of your family members.
Do you want to be buried? Cremated?
Do you want there to be a service? If you want a service, what type of service? Are there special songs or readings or something else that you would like to take place?
Is there something you absolutely do NOT want done or said, like a military service, even if you were in the military...or...a specific location you do not want buried?!
Do you not have a preference about any of this, and really want your loved ones to do what THEY would want to recognize your passing?
Are there special possessions you have that you want to pass down to certain people?