What Happens if Your Spouse Suddenly Dies?
When you are married, you are likely only thinking about your lives together. However, it is equally important to consider what will happen if one of you passes away. There are several things you should do to prepare for this situation
Common Planning Problems
It’s common to avoid doing end-of-life planning, especially if both of you are in reasonably good health. However, it can be harder to make the decisions when one spouse is terminally ill, so it’s a good idea to start planning now. You can review an end-of-life planning checklist to help you get started. By not planning correctly, you could inadvertently make the grieving process even worse for the surviving spouse.
It’s easy to forget to let the other know about financial decisions. The survivor might not know where to start when it comes to organizing the finances. That’s because the deceased might have been the one to manage all financial decisions, and they might have been the only one on the bank accounts. You can start planning now by making sure at least one well-stocked bank account has both names on it. This can be used for funeral expenses and to help the survivor pay for living expenses. Both of you should know where to locate that checkbook and have debit cards for that account.
You should both understand the types of planning documents that there currently are. They should also understand where these items are kept. For example, if you have a trust account, the other spouse might need to know where a copy of the trust is. That way, they can access these funds. A sudden funeral is stressful enough you don’t want to have to consider taking out a personal loan just to cover the costs, on top of everything else. Still, a funeral home could continue with the funeral plans, as long as you have a will in place. That makes this document one of the most important to have on hand.
Simple Planning Tools
You should have access to a will, a medical directive, and a financial directive. If you have a significant number of financial assets, you might want to have a trust as well. These can be individual or joint, but the right type for you will depend on tax regulations at the time. And whether you manage your finances together or separately will also determine what type you need. A financial directive allows one or more people to take over the finances, deal with insurance, and take over legal affairs. Typically, a married couple would designate the other person in this case. However, you can also have your kids take over, especially if one spouse does not want to do these things.
You should also have a medical directive, which can allow one person to make medical decisions if you are not able to do that. A living will can help you establish your feelings on life support if you have a terminal illness. That way, a spouse or another person can talk to health care providers about your medical condition. You can also leave instructions on your medical care, such as telling providers not to resuscitate you.