My father passed away suddenly in August of 2019 at age 61.I got one day to properly mourn (which was 2 days before he died) until I found myself standing in a large pair of shoes at age 28… his.
At that moment, my job became helping my mother rebuild her life and finding a “new normal” without the man she’d spent 40 years with. For Adrian, that meant making well over 100 calculated decisions very quickly, before dad was officially pronounced dead.
Only Jay knows this story, but shortly after the doctors told us that his stroke was fatal, I turned to my husband and we mutually understood that we were now on the hook for mom’s mortgage payments (alongside our own life expenses) indefinitely. My father was the breadwinner, so his passing ended his salary and his Marine Corps pension. But, the bills don’t care. They’re still due on the 1st. Oh yeah, and somebody would have to pay for his final expenses, and the medical bills that resulted from a 4 day long ICU stay, etc. That burden fell onto us because we realized we were probably the only people somewhat capable of doing it.
But my father was a smarter man than that. He knew better.
His death was completely random and unplanned even to him, but he planned for it. Three hours after he died was probably the single most “prideful” moment I have ever had for my father. We got home from the hospital and I gained access to his files where we found life insurance policies that we didn’t know existed, vital folders literally labeled with their exact contents, and every other document we needed to notify the VA of his passing and get death benefits to kick in. It was right there, clearly marked, easily accessible.
I was privileged enough to witness my mother’s face when she realized that everything would be okay. You don’t know how that moment felt.
In a lot of ways, I run my household. I solely manage our budget, and make all loan, investment, and insurance decisions. I try to include my husband, but he prefers to yield the floor to me. However, none of these decisions will do him any good if he can’t find them.
So, on the first day of this COVID-19 social distancing initiative, I broke out my filing cabinet and fireproof safe, sat down on the living room floor with Jay, and we organized our documents together. I got revised copies of all active insurance policies, clearly marked any crucial paperwork, shredded out-of-date things, and re-evaluated our life insurance needs. I showed Jay crucial documents that he’d need to sell our house, and where to find it. I gave him a plan.
Jay and I are both betting that I outlive him, but if I don’t… the last gift I want to give him is the same gift my father gave my mother… certainty.
If you’ve got some free time this weekend, lay out your plan. Don’t take the location of the policies, paperwork, and passwords your family needs to survive to the grave with you.
Be the hero they need you to be through life, and death, alike.