Recently my family experienced the loss of my father-in-law. He was a spectacular man who cared for his family very deeply. My father-in-law was by no means the picture of health and as he aged we all knew the day would come but none of us expected it to come so quickly. My mother-in-law is a strong woman who took care of my father-in-law through many years of health problems. Suddenly she has been thrust into a new position with many new responsibilities. There are some lessons that she has learned along the way that she wanted me to share with my audience.
First of all, losing someone you spent the majority of your life with is very difficult emotionally. You will need a social network of family and friends to remind you that everything will eventually be okay. The person will never be forgotten but life will go on. Even if someone just sits in the same room with you, it can be very comforting to have the presence of people you love surrounding you.
The second consideration is financial. Make certain that if you have one person handling the household finances another person is well aware of how the process works. Luckily, my mother-in-law paid the bills regularly and knew how the general flow of monthly money went but there were many aspects of the finances that she knew nothing about. Now she is forced to rapidly figure out details about financial investments that took time to accumulate. My father-in-law also briefly showed his financial information to me but it was years ago and something you do not deal with on a regular basis is easily forgotten. Long story short, make sure that two individuals in the household know the details of your monthly financial processes.
The third consideration has to do with things that you may own. Cars, homes, stocks, deeds, etc. are all going to have to have the names on the items changed. It would be helpful to have a list or a folder of the items that will need this adjustment if something were to happen. That way if something does happen, you're not digging through paperwork trying to remember everything that needs to be adjusted while your grieving for your loved one.
The fourth thing on the list is the importance of having a life insurance policy. There are two basic types of life insurance policies a whole life and a term life. Whole life policies are harder to get and usually more expensive. However, once you have it in place they generally accrue money and they are usually guaranteed. That means no matter what happens to your health the policy can't be canceled for health reasons. A term life policy is usually cheaper. It doesn't accrue long term value and it is only guaranteed for the term that you purchase. After the term is up, you have to invest in another policy, your health is reassessed and the price usually increases at that point. That being said, life insurance policies provide money to your spouse to handle adjustments they will have to make financially to deal with your loss.
The last thing that my mother-in-law urged me to share with you should have a rainy day fund in reserve just in case you have the loss of a loved one. Even if you have a life insurance policy, social security, and or a pension, all these things will take time to kick in or there may be hiccups in the payouts. In order to get the payout on the life insurance policy you have to submit a death certificate to the insurance company and jump through their hoops before they issue a check. The death certificates usually take at least three weeks to get. Then the insurance company has to process the claim and you are left with bills to pay and no money. Social security that is being received under the spouses name will literally be removed from the account it was deposited into. Then, social security needs a copy of the death certificate to process the payout to the surviving beneficiary. If you were planning on paying bills with that social security money, it will not be there for a while. Pensions work similarly to social security but it depends on the company. They are usually better about allowing you to keep any money that was paid out, but they will also need time to process the payout to a new beneficiary.
When you are dealing with the loss of a loved one the last thing you want to think of is paperwork and financial issues. A little bit of preparation will go a long way. Have a reliable social network. Have two people in the household familiar with the financial information. Keep a list or folder of all the important documents that will need name adjustments. Have a life insurance policy in place. Remember to keep a rainy day fund to cover expenses while you are waiting for other financial resources to kick in.