What Happens When A Spouse Dies? by JEH

In prepping, I never thought about my wife not being by my side. We have both come to believe that the world, as we know it, will evolve into a world where we do not belong. We both work to make our home happy and educate our child. We are paying for braces on her teeth, and we want the best for her. However, nine months ago, a close friend of ours was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. We saw a lady go from being a loving and caring wife, mother, and school teacher to a woman who fought for her life and lost.

Now comes a time when we address this situation between ourselves. First, do you want your spouse to remarry quickly? If you have a child, do you want your spouse to devote as much time to them before they remarry?

As for the friend I am talking about, he has met a lady and is engaged just six months after his wife died. His boys are both of college age and practically raised already. Some say that my friend is not mourning long enough and he did not properly mourn his wife. However, mourning is something we all do differently, and we do not need to express our thoughts on mourning onto someone else. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, it is said there is a time to mourn and time to rejoice. I rejoice that he found a lady whose husband died from an inoperable brain tumor also. I was in his office this week and saw a picture of his deceased wife. It made me think about her, as I am sure he does often, but the main thing I can do is support him and elevate him and his boys on my prayer list. I also let him know that I am here if he needs to talk.

Now what would I want my wife to do? Just today, a person died in front of the local grocery store in an automobile accident. In an instant, that person’s spouse, if they are married, has their life drastically changed. Having a plan in place will help ease the problems. Just like many preppers have a plan in place to defend their homes and have caches and other items, you must be prepared to help your family’s emotions. By having a written plan, you, your spouse, and/or children can carry on easier.

First Things First

Talk to your spouse and agree on these things:

  1. Do you want to be on life support?
  2. Do you want the State to determine who gets custody of your children or who will get custody?
  3. Do you want the State to determine how your estate will be divided or do you want the final instruction regarding who gets what?
  4. Who will watch over the money you have for minor children?
  5. Do you need life insurance?

Now understand, if the world ends today, don’t worry about any of this. The game changes, but for right now these are legitimate concerns we should prepare for.

Get a Will

Having a will is very important. The possessions of your spouse and yourself will be preserved by the will. Say you aren’t married, you still need a will to transfer your ownership to the person you choose. If you have minor children, you need to plan for if both of you die. Who do you want to take care of your child(ren)? If you name nobody, the courts get to decide. Do you want to take that chance?

I recommend that you consider competent legal advice from an attorney who is up to date on the laws of your state. You can use a “do-it-yourself” kit, but it could be contested as not being valid at the time you signed it. Also, if you have a minor child or children, you will get to name who controls the children and who controls the money. They don’t have to be the same person.

You can name an older child as the executor/executrix. You also can name anyone you choose as the executor/executrix. If you do not, the courts will do it for you and will usually appoint an attorney who will charge your estate a lot of money, leaving less for your spouse or children. Choose this person wisely. I like certified public accountants for this. They know the laws and tax code. Regardless, choose wisely.

A will can be done for less than a $1,000 and usually for a few hundred dollars. The more complicated the will, the more the cost. Everyone who has anything should have a will. This will should include cars, homes, retirement accounts, and other stuff.

Have a Healthcare Directive

Some people call these a living will. It allows you to decide if you want lifesaving treatment, even though you might be a burden to your family. I do not want to be a burden to my family. If I cannot sustain daily functions, I have made it a priority to walk with the Prince of Peace, so I might have eternal peace. My wife and child know this, and we all have talked about what each of us wants.

The attorney will need to do this for you. Hospitals have to follow it. You need to choose someone who is strong enough to give this form to your doctors or nurses.

Write a Letter to Your Spouse

Let your spouse know, in writing, what you want for them to do after your body is buried, burned, or dumped. I have a letter that addresses where to find my life insurance policies, my stashed stuff, and how I would like for her to take care of our daughter through each phase of life.

Write a Letter to Your Children

Just in case you and your spouse die together, let the children know where to find your life insurance policies. Let them know about the IRAs, the coins, the education accounts, and at which banks you have money. If you have a minor child, address this letter to the person that will handle the money in your will. This will help, and if the kid(s) know where all the money is located, it will help an unscrupulous attorney be sued for malpractice if they to keep any of the money.

Life Insurance

Term life insurance is relatively cheap. Does everyone need term life insurance? “No!” If you don’t have a mortgage and a pot full of gold, silver, and cash, then do not get any. If you have a mortgage, consider it. If you have a mortgage and some other secured debt, get it. This will pay off your debts and allow your spouse and/or children to continue on with no debt. Also, if you are the only earner in the family, you might need some. This will provide a source of money to live on until your spouse or children can live on their own.

Prepaid Funeral

My father has prepaid for his funeral. It saved him a boat load of money. He paid $6,000 for a funeral in 1998. The same funeral he prepaid for would now cost $10,000. That’s not a bad investment. Also, it provides peace of mind to me. He gets the funeral he wanted, rather than the funeral I want for him. I do not have to make decisions that should be his. This works great in all occasions. I am considering doing the same for my wife and child. During the time of death and mourning, spouses have to make some tough decisions. Doing this funeral planning helps take a big burden off their shoulders.

I know there was an article on Odds & Sods about a company selling a burial plot out from under her. Be careful of where you choose to be your final resting place. Many municipalities operate graveyards. Consider this.

Decisions, Decisions

If you have investments, you need a list of those investments on-hand for your spouse or child. A good certified public accountant will help you make logical decisions for your situation. For example, if you have a term life insurance policy and die, your spouse will get to decide to take a lump sum payment or a structured series of payments over a number of years. There are companies who will make money buying structured payments at a fraction of their value because someone made a bad decision on what to do with the money. You can also take a partial lump-sum payment and then take the annuity on the remaining amount. A good certified public accountant should be able to meet with you, discuss your needs, and formulate a plan. I like certified public accountants because they work for you rather than for the insurance company.

Also, you will have to choose what to do with retirement accounts. There again, a competent certified public accountant should help you. You will have to understand the tax implications of what to do with rollovers, including taking the money out and considering the cost of investing. Beware of a certified public accountant who tries to sell you anything other than their knowledge. At this point, they become a salesperson and not your advocate.

Finally

If we are prepared for the end-of-the-world, why wouldn’t we be prepared for when our life ends? It could be after a post-apocalypse situation, a full assault of zombies, a brain tumor with Obamacare, or a freak car accident.

Anyway, when you are prepared, the outcome is more certain than when rash decisions are made. This is true in death, whether it’s a result of your house is being burglarized or an assault upon you by a thug. It will not cost much to do the things I have laid out. It will primarily take time and understanding. You need to talk these things out prior to penning them down.

I encourage you to seek competent legal, accounting, and personal knowledge. By developing a relationship with professionals, you can feel better about your decisions. It will also give time to make new relationships, if you need to.

I have done all of these things out of love for my wife and daughter. I want their mourning time to be minimal, and I want my wife and daughter to remember me as a husband and father who cared enough to make sure they could enjoy their lives after my life ends. Finally, I have asked our pastor and his wife to check in on my wife if I die or my daughter if we both die. I want them to keep a source of connection to me until they can end the mourning process. I think a person can end the mourning process a lot easier when they are not stressed about money. Also, I want them to appreciate the things I did to help them even after I am no longer on this earth. As one buddy stated, “I would rather them thank God I was their husband and/or father instead of curse me for leaving them destitute”.

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