Life Is Too Short – Engaged Marriage

Life Is Too Short

By Dustin | Communication

Note: This is a guest post by my friend Brad Allen.  You NEED to read this and then take action with your spouse to answer the questions at the end.  This is just too important to ignore, even though I definitely understand why it’s easier to keep this topic out of your mind.  Deal with it…for the sake of your spouse and your family.

“Life is too short.”

That’s an interesting phrase. People use it often. I use it often too but a recent, tragic event happened that really put the phrase into perspective. Tragic events do that.

On December 15th, without warning, my Dad had a heart attack and did not survive. He was 54 years old. Nine days after that, I turned 31. Both of us were way, way too young for that to happen.

My Dad and I had a great relationship and, as much as it hurts to lose him, I can’t imagine how my step mom must feel. My wife and I are best friends, and while I’m learning to deal with the loss of my Dad I’m not sure how I could “learn to deal” with losing my wife.

The reality though, unfortunately, is that you may kiss your spouse goodbye when you leave for work in the morning and that may be the last time you see them alive ever again. Death is inevitable and in some cases without warning.

I Appreciate the Warning, But What Can I DO About It?

Engaged Marriage is such a great resource because Dustin writes about taking action on those things in marriage that often lead to unhappiness or divorce. Preparation is a big part of it. Preparing your family for financial disaster is important of course, as is preparing for the birth of a child, etc.

Preparing for death, though, is something a lot of young couples tend to overlook because, well, they’re young. “That’s not something I need to worry too much about because it’s a long way off.” Says who?

Being prepared is a lot more than simply writing your spouse’s name in the “Primary Beneficiary” box on your HR paperwork at work.

Talk to your spouse. Make sure you both fully understand what will happen in the event that one or both of you dies. Cover as many scenarios as possible. You will truly never know when something tragic might happen, but you will damn sure know whether or not you were prepared for it. The death of your spouse is not the time to have figure things out.

Sit Down & Answer These Questions With Your Spouse

I’m not a professional, however, having gone through both the planning phase with my own wife and the “now what do I do” phase with my step mom I feel I can at least offer some questions that you and your spouse can answer together to get you started.

Answer these questions and then turn those answers into actions by talking to a professional and getting the necessary paperwork in order. Most importantly, secure the information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box and make sure someone outside of your marriage knows how to access the information.

Some basic questions are:

  • Does each of us have enough life insurance to cover our current way of life? Put another way, how will our debt (mortgage, car loans, etc.) be paid with only one or no salary? Hopefully you’re following Dustin’s advice and you’re well on your way to not having any debt, but if you’re like my wife and I, you’re only part of the way there…and what about the other bills? Utilities, cable, internet…
  • Who will care for our children if we both die? Pets?
  • What are our final wishes? Cremation, burial, open/closed casket, etc…
  • Are there certain things that I’d rather my children have then my spouse? A family heirloom to be passed to a son perhaps…

One final question that you should ask only yourself… Losing a loved one is bad enough. Losing your spouse would be unbearable. In the event that something unexpected does happen, wouldn’t you rather spend your time grieving with your surviving family and coping with that reality instead of scrambling to make sure you don’t lose everything you both worked so hard to achieve?

That question should be easily answered…

Life is too short. A little effort now can ensure that your surviving family will be taken care of later.

(photo source)

_____________________________________

Brad writes about technology and gadgets at his blog http://bradwallen.com/.  Go check it out for some education and entertainment, or just to thank him for sharing this excellent post.  You can also share your thoughts with him on Twitter at @bradwallen

Follow

About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

Leave a Comment:

(20) comments

These are vital questions to answer (which I learned after taking care of Dad’s estate about 18 months ago… Brad, I’m so sorry!).

Another thing to consider might also be where everything is located. If you’re not the one who does the filing, could you find what you need? Do you know the passwords to the various online accounts, or the pin numbers to the financial accounts?
One way to solve this is a quick over-view of where everything is located in the filing cabinet, and the creation of a sheet that lists all of the log-in information for various places (safely stored away, of course).

Reply
    Dustin

    Excellent advice, Matthew. I’ve heard this called a “Love Drawer” where you keep all of the important financial documents and instructions for what to do if you pass away.

    Reply

After my husband had a psychotic breakdown, I had to do a lot of work to figure out our finances (which he typically handled). That spurred us, once he was well again, to address a lot of these questions, although not all of them. Thanks for sharing — we’ll try to do that now!

Reply
    Dustin

    Thanks for sharing your story, Heather! There are some powerful posts on your blog.

    Reply
Kate

Although these topics are sad and scary to think about, Brad is so right about the importance of preparation. My family got a crash course this year when we dealt with moving my grandparents to a retirement home with him in assisted living and her in full nursing care because of dementia. In some areas they were prepared and in others they were lacking. They had Powers of Attorney, medical and otherwise, for each spouse and for a trusted family member (my mom). But they had done absolutely no long term care or estate planning of any kind. Sure we’d all love to live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in our sleep in our own home, but the truth is that it’s not always that simple. Long term care can be extremely expensive and can wipe out a lifetime of hard earned savings in just a few years. And it’s not just the cost, there is also the emotional aspect of realizing you must leave your home. But if you have discussed this with your spouse and have developed a plan, then this change does not have to be so frightening and disruptive. It’s not fun but it’s better to think about it sooner rather than later.

Also there are issues of living wills and DNR’s. If you’re in a catastrophic accident do you want to be kept on life support? Does anyone know your wishes and are they authorized to carry them out?

And Matthew had a great point about the filing. My grandpa’s meticulous record-keeping made it much easier for us to organize his financial affairs.

Reply
    Dustin

    Fantastic additions to this important conversation, Kate. You are so right about these issues arising before death in the form of long-term care choices. We recently went through that in our family, as my Dad is now in a nursing home. It’s tough but much better to have it thought out before the time arrives.

    Reply
Tracey

This article is sooo true. As relatively young people we tend to think or not think about these things. I unfortunately had to go through alot of issues when my husband passed away from cancer. Even tho it was expected in the long term, it wasnt expected or discussed soon enough. For alot of the life insurance- our young children are the beneficiaries. As minors, you would think hey im there mom, im in charge of it all now. But i have to actually fill out paperwork, file it in court and go to a hearing in order to be in charge of the money that we need now. There was also a lot of loose ends- as far as our debt- most of it was in my name… now what? Im left to pay it- alone. When facing death, no one wants to think of these things b/c facing them means it is really happening, death is near for some. Just putting my experience out there so everyone knows to please get it handled when you arent sick. Dont leave loose ends for your loved ones to try and figure out!!

Reply
    Dustin

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences around these issues, Tracey. I’m really sorry to hear about your husband and all the turmoil that has ensued since his passing. I hope readers take your story to heart.

    Reply
Stephanie Baffone

Dustin,
How heart wrenching and brave. You both deserve lots of credit for broaching such a difficult subject that needs to be spotlighted from time to time. God be with Brad and his family. Such a terrible time of year to experience such tragic loss.
Blessings to him and his family (and yours too.)

Reply
    Dustin

    Thank you, Stephanie. I definitely appreciate Brad’s bravery in sharing his story and advice.

    Reply
Sally J. Parrott

After my husband was hit by a car while he was in a crosswalk, I realized that although we had discussed and handled lots of the big things, I had never learned from him what the set-ups and passwords were for the utility and other accounts. Fortunately, he was well enough to tell me it all by the time it mattered, but now we keep that information somewhere safe.

Had he died, we would have had enough money coming to me to get me through the awful period that would have followed. (He was a PhD student then, so my income was the primary one at the time.) That was little relief when he was in the hospital, but it certainly would have made my life easier had it come to happen.

You really don’t know what will happen. It helps to be prepared.

Reply
    Dustin

    Thanks for sharing, Sally. It’s unfortunate that your husband had to experience that accident, but it sounds like it was a real eye-opener for your family. I hope readers see how important this type of planning really is.

    Reply

Thanks for sharing this. I am going to repost this on my blog with credits to you. @tbgdgc

Reply
    Dustin

    Thank *you* for sharing it, Tbg!

    Reply

[…] read this post on The Engaged Marriage Blog. (Link will open in new […]

Reply

Good question, its always great to be prepared

Reply

This is a VITALLY important subject that every married couple should openly and thoroughly discuss now (and I mean literally, right this moment) rather than “later.” My precious wife died very suddenly with no warning when I was 31. Though it has been nearly 10 years, and I am recently remarried to a wonderful woman, not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my Jen. But life has to go on. And so from a practical standpoint, let me echo the need for a strong life insurance policy.

Get it while you’re young (it’s cheaper) and make it for the most you can afford (within reason). I am talking hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, not tens. You will need that money not only to exist, but to have some semblance of a life.

Debt was smartly mentioned above. I unfortunately discovered that we had quite a LOT of debt from her business — yes, no matter how much we love them/they love us, we are all only human and thus we can and do leave unpleasant surprises. You will also need cash to pay your ongoing bills (mortgage, utilities, food, car and home insurance, your own life insurance, etc.), grief counseling, and just to try to live on.

If your spouse dies suddenly and you’re able to function well at work after a week or two of time off to “recover,” you are either an *extremely* exceptional individual or else your marriage was only on paper. Many people think they can do this and they will be okay since their spouse perhaps did not bring in as much money as them. Trust me, please. If you can avoid this mistake, you are well-served to do so.

Importantly, you will also be without whatever your spouse contributed to your retirement income. So plan on losing that income as well which in our case would have been a large, cumulative amount of money between the both of us working another 40 or so years. Even another 20 or so years. (Actually our plan was to be financially independent before 50 and even with my wife’s business debt at the time of her death, I have every reason to believe we would have achieved it by 55 if not 50.)

Accordingly, what my wife and I planned for our life insurance was for neither of us to ever have to work again if one of us died. It did not work out this way, but fortunately we were wise enough to have taken some action. At the time we signed it, I thought our policy was excessive, but in hindsight it was not enough. Our policy helped me to financially get through the first year after she passed (including paying down the debt she had incurred in her business). I also attempted to keep her business going…an honorable notion made out of love and wishing to see her work, her passion, her dreams continue. But again — this is another topic that begs discussion so that decisions don’t have to be made in the hapless vacuum of loss.

Were I to do it over today at the stage we were at, I’d get a million-dollar policy for each of us and hope to God (as we did then) that neither of us would ever have to cash that check.

One other imperative issue to tackle right now is getting both of your wills DONE and easily accessible. I cannot stress this enough. Just before her death, my wife and I had hired her business attorney to draw up wills for us, but we were only in the formative stages. This made for a lot of complications and difficulties with her family for me. Every state has differing laws on the line of succession/inheritance when a spouse dies without a will (and without children in our case), and my state’s laws were nebulous at best. You may think you have a rock-solid relationship with your inlaws, but once your spouse is gone, the wind can quickly shift. Not only did I lose my precious soul mate, I lost most of my inlaws (and their friends who we so enjoyed) — all of whom I had known and loved for over 10 years. I think that if her will were in place, this would not have been the case.

Be sure to also discuss organ donation and funeral planning in_detail with your spouse and both of your families. This is something that again, fortunately we had discussed amongst ourselves. But she did not discuss it with her parents and it made for yet more difficulty on top of the unthinkable tragedy of her death.

All of these things and more should be discussed as soon as possible. Last but not least, I’d also recommend encouraging your spouse to try and find love again. Anyone in a good marriage knows that life is meant to be enjoyed and shared with people you love. Fortunately and selflessly, my late wife made it quite clear to me that if anything ever happened to her, and I did not at_least_try to find love again, she would “come back and haunt” me. Without her blessing in this area, I doubt I’d be here today. This is what loving hearts do. They wish for us to find happiness even after tragedy. Perhaps especially after tragedy.

I hope what I have written here is at least somewhat helpful to someone. Blessings to you and your marriage.

Steve

Reply

This is a VITALLY important subject that every married couple should openly and thoroughly discuss now (and I mean literally, right this moment) rather than “later.” My precious wife died very suddenly with no warning when I was 31. Though it has been nearly 10 years, and I am recently remarried to a wonderful woman, not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my Jen. But life has to go on. And so from a practical standpoint, let me echo the need for a strong life insurance policy.

Get it while you’re young (it’s cheaper) and make it for the most you can afford (within reason). I am talking hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, not tens. You will need that money not only to exist, but to have some semblance of a life.

Debt was smartly mentioned above. I unfortunately discovered that we had quite a LOT of debt from her business — yes, no matter how much we love them/they love us, we are all only human and thus we can and do leave unpleasant surprises. You will also need cash to pay your ongoing bills (mortgage, utilities, food, car and home insurance, your own life insurance, etc.), grief counseling, and just to try to live on.

If your spouse dies suddenly and you’re able to function well at work after a week or two of time off to “recover,” you are either an *extremely* exceptional individual or else your marriage was only on paper. Many people think they can do this and they will be okay since their spouse perhaps did not bring in as much money as them. Trust me, please. If you can avoid this mistake, you are well-served to do so.

Importantly, you will also be without whatever your spouse contributed to your retirement income. So plan on losing that income as well which in our case would have been a large, cumulative amount of money between the both of us working another 40 or so years. Even another 20 or so years. (Actually our plan was to be financially independent before 50 and even with my wife’s business debt at the time of her death, I have every reason to believe we would have achieved it by 55 if not 50.)

Accordingly, what my wife and I planned for our life insurance was for neither of us to ever have to work again if one of us died. It did not work out this way, but fortunately we were wise enough to have taken some action. At the time we signed it, I thought our policy was excessive, but in hindsight it was not enough. Our policy helped me to financially get through the first year after she passed (including paying down the debt she had incurred in her business). I also attempted to keep her business going…an honorable notion made out of love and wishing to see her work, her passion, her dreams continue. But again — this is another topic that begs discussion so that decisions don’t have to be made in the hapless vacuum of loss.

Were I to do it over today at the stage we were at, I’d get a million-dollar policy for each of us and hope to God (as we did then) that neither of us would ever have to cash that check.

One other imperative issue to tackle right now is getting both of your wills DONE and easily accessible. I cannot stress this enough. Just before her death, my wife and I had hired her business attorney to draw up wills for us, but we were only in the formative stages. This made for a lot of complications and difficulties with her family for me. Every state has differing laws on the line of succession/inheritance when a spouse dies without a will (and without children in our case), and my state’s laws were nebulous at best. You may think you have a rock-solid relationship with your inlaws, but once your spouse is gone, the wind can quickly shift. Not only did I lose my precious soul mate, I lost most of my inlaws (and their friends who we so enjoyed) — all of whom I had known and loved for over 10 years. I think that if her will were in place, this would not have been the case.

Be sure to also discuss organ donation and funeral planning in_detail with your spouse and both of your families. This is something that again, fortunately we had discussed amongst ourselves. But she did not discuss it with her parents and it made for yet more difficulty on top of the unthinkable tragedy of her death.

All of these things and more should be discussed as soon as possible. Last but not least, I’d also recommend encouraging your spouse to try and find love again. Anyone in a good marriage knows that life is meant to be enjoyed and shared with people you love. Fortunately and selflessly, my late wife made it quite clear to me that if anything ever happened to her, and I did not at_least_try to find love again, she would “come back and haunt” me. Without her blessing in this area, I doubt I’d be here today. This is what loving hearts do. They wish for us to find happiness even after tragedy. Perhaps especially after tragedy.

I hope what I have written here is at least somewhat helpful to someone. Blessings to you and your marriage.

Steve

Reply

Like a few of the other posters who’ve commented, I also lost my wife unexpectedly this last year. Having almost all of our assets owned jointly made probate a lot easier, but that’s not enough. After getting a lawyer who deals with estates and living trusts, I’ve almost got everything taken care of. My advice is that talking is a first step, but go all the way and talk to a lawyer and set up a living trust.

We should have done this years ago, and I can’t imagine how my wife and kids would have figured it all out and dealt with it if they were the survivors. It was simple to do, didn’t take too long and really helps get everything taken care of.

Reply

[…] read a post the other day on what would happen if your spouse died.  It got me thinking.  Even though Jeff and […]

Reply
Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: