Life marches on, but what if the proverbial “getting hit by a bus” actually happens? Is your family prepared if the worst case scenario would occur to you, or your wife? Or even worse, if you BOTH get “hit by the bus”?
We read about tragedies every day, but we don’t think about those things happening to us. Life doesn’t always turn out like you plan. Lots of things we take for granted all of a sudden need special attention. If life suddenly takes an unforeseen turn, are the most important things in your life going to be taken care of like you want? Who will pay the bills? Will my family be able to survive in a way I would want? What happens to my assets? If I am disabled, who will make health care decisions for me? Who will take care of my children???
1. 2 Kings 20:1
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
2. Isaiah 57:1-2
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
3. 1 Peter 5:2-3
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
4. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1. Paragraph 1007
Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:
2. Paragraph 1013
Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When “the single course of our earthly life” is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.” There is no “reincarnation” after death.
3. Paragraph 1014
The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.
Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. . . . Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow. . .
Small Group Questions
1. Have you done any “end of life” planning? If so, what has been helpful to you?
2. Do you have a system for your key documents?
1. Talk with your wife about starting/updating your plans
2. Begin taking inventory of your key documents. Make a plan to have them available in case of emergency.
1. If tragedy strikes, are you financially prepared?
By Kimberly Rotter
The time for financial preparedness is now
If you were to lose your husband tomorrow, would you know how many credit cards he has in his wallet, and the telephone numbers to close the accounts? If your wife were to die next week, would you know where and how to log on and pay all of your bills? Could you do something as simple as access your loved one’s email or Facebook account to notify friends of the death?
None of us likes to think about the untimely death of someone we love, especially before we’re “old enough” to start thinking about dying. But it’s important to think about the necessary financial actions to take in the tragic event that something happens to your spouse or partner.
It could happen to any of us
Recent articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal illustrate the myriad of harsh realities a surviving spouse can encounter in the absence of careful planning.
One woman lost her husband to a heart attack at age 57. She found herself locked out of various online banking and bill paying accounts.
One man, whose wife paid all the bills prior to losing her battle to cancer, found out the hard way that removing his wife’s name from their bank account effectively closed the account and wiped out any bill-pay settings she had put into place.
Another woman, who lost her husband in a tragic bicycle accident, was faced with a sudden loss of income, lack of knowledge of the details and numbers of accounts her husband managed himself and no properly executed will.
Countless other survivors can testify to the difficulties and costs involved in transferring ownership of real estate, stocks, bonds and other assets – difficulties and costs that could have been avoided by taking simple steps before tragedy struck. And keep in mind that survivors face these challenges and costs while in the grip of overwhelming grief over the loss of their partners. This all comes at the worst possible time for life to burden you with such a heavy load.
What you can do now:
We all hope tragedy never strikes too near. But we will all die, and few of us have the luxury of knowing when we’ll go.
If you’re like most people, you don’t have a will. Approximately 57 percent of American adults don’t have one, according to a 2011 survey from market research group Harris Interactive. And if you’re in the dark about what bills get paid and when, you’re not alone. You don’t have to suddenly become the household bookkeeper if that’s not a role that you already fill. But you and your partner are well advised to set aside some time, in small chunks if necessary, to gather certain paperwork and information.
Add your spouse’s name to assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds and bank accounts
Across the board, financial advisers and surviving spouses advise that you put both names on all assets. The more you keep things separate in life, the more it will cost you after death – in probate costs or inheritance taxes, for example, as well as in time and effort.
Real estate that one person owns can easily be put into both names by filing a quitclaim deed (specifying joint tenancy with right of survivorship). This quick task is usually handled at the county real estate records office. You do not have to add your spouse’s name to the mortgage in order to add it to the deed.
List all online accounts and their passwords
Passwords are tricky. Security experts advise against using the same password on all sites, but multiple passwords of your own are hard enough to keep track of without adding another person’s passwords to the mix. Experts also advise against writing passwords down. But you need to devise a system for sharing this information, and you should update it at least twice a year. Find a safe place to store your list. Make a handwritten list and keep the paper in a safe. Or use an online file storage site that encrypts data. Try DropBox with Boxcryptor or SecureSafe (both options are free).
Take care of paperwork
If you have any assets, you need to have a will. You should also write a living will, expressing your desires with regard to life-sustaining measures in the event you are unable to communicate with doctors.
A Power of Attorney is a simple but critical document that designates your representative under a variety of conditions. It can be as broad or limited as you desire. Use one to give one person access to your bank accounts, and another to designate a guardian for your children (this can also be stipulated in your will).
Consider life insurance
Most of us dutifully make mortgage and car loan payments each month. Many of us continue to pay off student loan debt for ourselves or our children. Still others carry revolving credit card debt. Think about how much money it would take to pay everything off at once, and price out life insurance for at least that amount plus six months’ living expenses and extra money to cover costs related to the death (plot, casket, preparation for viewing, cremation, professional service fee, reception, etc.). In some cases, more coverage comes with lower premiums, due to policy popularity among purchasers.
Consider disability insurance
Long-term and short-term disability insurance can replace lost income when a family member survives an event or illness but cannot work (or cannot work as much).
Where to start
Plenty of information is out there to help you. In fact, one widow dedicated her hard-won experiences to creating a website that helps others avoid the financial nightmare she lived. Chanel Reynolds, the woman who lost her husband far too soon in a bicycle accident, created GetYourShitTogether.org, a website designed to help you get things in order. You’ll find sample documents, a checklist, and helpful links there.
You should consult an estate lawyer to help you craft and finalize your will, and a tax professional if you have significant assets. As Ms. Reynolds points out, if you can afford to take a family vacation this year, you can afford to get professional help on these simple but very important matters.
Now it’s up to you to get it together.
2. Guardianship for Your Children
Choose a personal guardian — someone to raise your children in the unlikely event you can’t.
If your children are young, you’ve probably thought about who would raise them if for some reason you or another parent couldn’t. It’s not an easy thing to consider, but with a simple arrangement of a guardian in your will, you can feel sure that, in the extremely unlikely event you can’t raise your kids, they will be well cared for.
Naming a Personal Guardian
You should name one personal guardian (and one alternate, in case your first choice can’t serve) for each of your children.
Legally, you may name more than one guardian, but it’s generally not a good idea because of the possibility that the coguardians will later disagree. On the other hand, if you prefer that two people care for your child — for example, a stable couple who would act as coparents — name both of them, so that they each have the legal power to make important decisions on behalf of your child.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a personal guardian:
Is the prospective guardian old enough? (You must choose an adult — 18 years old in most states.)
Does the prospective guardian have a genuine concern for your children’s welfare?
Is the prospective guardian physically able to handle the job?
Does he or she have the time?
Does he or she have kids of an age close to that of your children?
Can you provide enough assets to raise the children? If not, can your prospective guardian afford to bring them up?
Does the prospective guardian share your moral beliefs?
Would your children have to move?
If you’re having a hard time choosing someone, take some time to talk with the person you’re considering. One or more of your candidates may not be willing or able to accept the responsibility, or their feelings about acting as guardian may help you decide.
Choosing Different Guardians for Different Children
Most people want their children to stay together; if you do, name the same personal guardian for all of your kids.
You can, however, name different personal guardians for different children. Some parents may do this if their children are not close in age or if they have strong attachments to different adults outside of the immediate family. For instance, one child may spend a lot of time with a grandparent while another child may be close to an aunt and uncle. Or, if you have children from different marriages, they may be close to different adults. In every situation, you want to choose the personal guardian you believe would be best able to care for each child.
Choosing a Different Person to Watch the Checkbook
Some parents name one person to be the children’s personal guardian and a different person to look after financial matters. Often this is because the person who would be the best surrogate parent would not be the best person to handle the money.
For example, you might feel that your brother-in-law would provide the most stable, loving home for your kids, but not have much faith in his abilities as a financial manager. Perhaps you have a close friend who cares about your kids and would be better at dealing with the economic aspects of bringing them up. Provided that your brother-in-law and your friend agree and you trust them to get along in the best interest of your children, you can name one as personal guardian and the other as custodian or trustee to manage your children’s inheritance. (See Nolo’s article Leaving an Inheritance for Children.)
If You and the Other Parent Can’t Agree
When you and your child’s other parent make your wills, you should name the same person as personal guardian. If you don’t agree on whom to name, there could be a court fight if both of you die while the child is still a minor. Faced with conflicting wishes, a judge would have to make a choice based on the evidence of what’s in the best interests of your child.
Writing a Letter of Explanation
Leaving a written explanation may be important if you think that a judge could have reason to question your choice for personal guardian.
Judges are required to act in the child’s best interests, so in your letter explain why your choice is best for your child. Here are some issues the judge will consider:
the child’s preference, to the extent it can be ascertained
who will provide the greatest stability and continuity of care
who will best meet the child’s needs
the relationships between the child and the adults being considered for guardian, and
the moral fitness and conduct of the proposed guardians.
If you are in the following situation, writing an explanatory letter may be a good idea:
If You Don’t Want the Other Parent to Raise Your Child
You may not trust your child’s other parent to care for your child if something happens to you. However, a judge will grant custody to a child’s surviving parent unless that parent has legally abandoned the child or is clearly unfit. In most cases, it is difficult to prove that a parent is unfit, unless he or she has serious problems such as chronic drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, or a history of child abuse.
If you honestly believe the other parent is incapable of caring for your children properly, or simply won’t assume the responsibility, you should write a letter explaining why.