Thursday, September 19, 2013

Estate Planning & Messy Stuff

I know for a lot of people this is going to be hard to read, but please, please do! The post below talks about very important grown up things, and even if you don't count yourself as grown up-if you support other people, you are!

Life gets crazy and things change.  You pay bills every month or every year and you look for ways to cut back. In a cost cutting measure, we dropped our life insurance.  We figured that we both had employer sponsored life insurance and that it would be ok to drop the large policy we had when we got married.  Only later when he had back problems and didn't work full time anymore did we consider it, but, by then it was too expensive. 

I had NO life insurance on him when he died.

It was a situation that I was completely unprepared for.   I wish that someone had told me about the "worst case scenario" before he died--and not a sales person either.  Someone my age, that said, hey I made that mistake, learn from me and don't do it.  Really, I do.  So here I am.   Here are a few technical things I wish were different.

1. Get life insurance...lots of it, more than you will ever think you will need.   Enough to cover paying off your house, your cars and living on for quite sometime.   If you die, your spouse will need this support.  If they are working they can use it to put the kids through college or something.  Run, don't walk, go do this NOW.  Seriously, you are still reading? GO!!!!

2. Write a will...who gets what (it can be as simple as my spouse gets everything) even though most states this is the law and most families don't argue with it, if your spouse needs this damn piece of paper, TRUST me, things are not good and the very least you could have done is have a piece of paper that gives your surviving spouse rights to everything.   Believe it or not, families and friends can get CRAZY when people die.  

3. Have a power of attorney.  Do you want to be on life support?  Do you want your organs donated? All of your organs? Do you want to be cremated? Where would you like to be buried?   Have the discussion.  As hard as it is to have now when you and your spouse are healthy, it is much, much harder for your spouse to sit and defend their choices to people.   If it is written down, the paperwork defends your spouse in carrying out choices that you agreed upon.   Again, people get CRAZY with grief. They are in a tailspin and like little children they lash out---protect your spouse from the grave.  Get your crap in order and make your wishes known.   Do it now, when no one is ill and time is not pressing.   We had this discussion many, many times, I knew exactly what he wanted and I did it--but--it wasn't in writing so I had to explain and keep defending our decision.

4. Have a plan in place.   Who are your go to people?  Who will be the ones that your spouse can call to help them with everything that HAS to be done.  I was lucky here in that my parents and siblings got their butts down to Texas ASAP and spent time telling me-sign here, do this, you need to call this person yadda, yadda, yadda.   I am beyond blessed to have such  a great family that looked out for our interests I cannot even express it.

What I can say is that there are people that come out of the woodwork immediately and then again later and will try and get things that aren't theirs to get, or they will take advantage of someone grieving a loss.  It is sick, it is wrong, I believe there is a special place reserved for this kind of behavior, but know that it does happen, it can happen and it likely will happen.   Who are your "people" that your spouse or you could turn to?  They may not be family but you just need to know. 

Take it from me, please, please go make sure that you have these things tied up.   That you have legal documents in place.  Do it when you have the luxury of time.  Learn from my experience and at my own personal expense.   Your spouse will not need to deal with the crap that doing these things will prevent.  

I know that it is hard, no one wants to think about the worst case.  No one wants to imagine life without their spouse.  I get that.  We didn't.  Let me tell you it is harder than anything you can imagine, so I beg you--go do these simple things.  Do them because you love your family and you would like to protect them just a little bit.