We often spend more time talking about what we should do than it takes to actually do it. Most of us don’t want to even think about what would happen in the event of a crisis or our death let alone plan for it. A potential consequence of ignoring the inevitable is compounded grief for our spouse. Gift each other with peace of mind by taking simple steps to prevent additional stress for your spouse or other loved ones during difficult times.
1. Make a will. This is especially important if you have minor children. Do you really want your crazy pot-smoking hippy aunt to make claim to your children if something happens to you and your spouse’s unavailable? Help the court set up the best situation for your children by making your wishes known. Prevent that relative who can’t even balance his own checkbook from handling your affairs by appointing an executor in your will. Google “will checklist” and review items to plan for. Then consult an attorney and get it done before your aunt can say “Flower Power.”
2. Draft a list of instructions. Many of us have matching spouse wills that leave everything to the other to figure out what to do with. The big stuff won’t be a problem. But help them out with your personal treasures to lessen their decision-making stress. It can be very simple: “Please give my jewelry box and its contents to Esmerelda, my antique mirror to your mother, and my suits to the downtown Dress for Success program.” You might want to include a list of names for your spouse to contact if there are people you care about that wouldn’t likely hear the news – such as that favorite cousin you talk to twice a year who lives three states away.
3. Gather your important documents. Put them all in one safe place. You want to include anything that shows status or ownership. Birth certificates, marriage license, passports, insurance policies, titles, deeds, loan papers. It can be helpful to put them in a 3-ring notebook (documents can be slipped into plastic notebook sleeves).
4. Create documents. Make a copy of your driver’s license, passport, and credit cards – front and back. Draft a list of entities that would need to be contacted for the purpose of claiming assets (such as insurance benefits) or replacing destroyed assets and include the phone numbers. Do a walk-through of your house video-tapoing or photographing the furniture, appliances, electronics, and the contents of closets and cabinets. Do the same for garage, shed and any other out buildings. Put the pictures on a flash drive and add to your notebook. There are 3-hole pockets that will fit in your notebook for the bulkier items – you can have some fun in the office supply store with all the notebook organizing options.
5. Draft your obituary. Why? Because you’re more interesting than the newspaper will otherwise reflect. Does anybody really care what relative ‘predeceased’ you going back three generations? No. The only reason that stuff keeps getting included is because it’s on the form handed to that grieving relative that will have to take care of this duty. Make it lively. Make it you. And while you’re at it, attach a cute picture of yourself. Oh, you think I’m getting a little creepy? I bet not as creepy as that 7th-grade yearbook picture the volunteer helping your loved one will find and, erroneously, think it’s retro-cute enough to represent you for ever after.
Sure, it’s a little time-consuming putting this stuff together for the first time. But once it’s done, it’s just a matter of maintenance thereafter – a periodic update of what is still relevant and tossing anything that isn’t. It’s time well-spent because it will give your spouse peace of mind and maybe make a difficult time less difficult. And, of course, you can always update that picture – it’s amazing how our perception of ‘cute’ can evolve with the passage of time!
Any other suggestions for giving spouses peace of mind? Tell us about them in the comment section below.