Do you know where everything is kept? Do you have a safety deposit box where wills/living wills, power of attorney and insurance policies are kept? Is your signature on file at the bank so you can easily access it?
By: Natasha Morgan
If your husband has been making all the financial decisions in your household, perhaps you should consider making changes. Many women turn a deaf ear when their husbands try to discuss the family budget. Knowing how much money you have and what you owe is crucial if your husband unexpectedly dies.
When you consider that on the average, women live six years longer than men. You might find yourself sorting through documents you know nothing about.
You can begin by finding out where everything is kept. Do you have a safety deposit box where wills/living wills, power of attorney and insurance policies are kept? Is your signature on file at the bank so you can easily access it?
Go to the bank with your husband and review all the documents the safety deposit box contains. Make notes and keep in your own file.
Find out which banks hold your family accounts. Establish whose names are on these accounts and where the statements are kept.
Keep all online ID’s and passwords in a secure place that you will be able to locate if needed.
Ask about any investments you and your husband may have. You need to know who is managing these accounts and if your name is on the documentation.
If you are entitled to a pension, do you know how much you will receive and who is administering the pension plan?
Where will you find your tax returns? Did you file individually or was a joint return filed over the years?
What about the roof over your head? Do you own or rent your home? Can you easily locate the deed to your property? If you rent, where is the lease and what is the duration of the signed lease? Are your property assessments and tax accounts handy?
Are your utility bills stuffed in a drawer or neatly filed away? Consider the consequences of an unpaid gas bill in the middle of winter.
Do you own your car? Perhaps there are lease or loan payments that need to be made. Get hold of the details and place them where you will easily find them.
If you’re counting on using your credit cards, know how much is owed on each. Make sure that at least the minimum balance is paid or you might find yourself in a dilemma when you most need to cover a large unexpected expense.
Do you own other property? You’ll need to put your hands on all the same documentation as you have gathered for your primary residence.
Your every day expenses need to be covered, so consider where you can access money should something happen to your husband. Everything in your husband’s name will be sealed upon his death and you may not see any of it for months. If possible, place enough money into an account of your own that will cover all expenses you might incur over the next year.
There are many insurance policies available and you need to know what coverage your husband has purchased (life, medical, mortgage, home, car). Have your insurance agent explain each policy in layman’s terms and do it with a clear head not when an emergency occurs.
How will you pay for funeral expenses? They will have to be taken care of before any money from the will is released. Plan ahead, before disaster strikes.
An attorney and a tax accountant can be helpful if you find yourself wading through a mountain of paperwork at a time when your emotions are particularly raw. If you’ve kept good records and know where to find everything, the process will be easier and less costly.
Here are a couple of vignettes from women who were not prepared that should encourage you take action:
“My husband suffered a fatal heart attack in his early fifties. The following week, I went to an ATM to get money for groceries and found that the account had been closed.”
“A few weeks after my husband had passed away, I was at home alone on a Saturday evening. Suddenly, the furnace stopped and I had no idea why. It turns out that my oil tank was empty and had not been filled because the bill had not been paid.”
“My car wouldn’t start one morning when I needed to go to a medical appointment. I tried to telephone AAA and found that the phone line was dead. It took a long time to find the bill and arrange for re-connection.”
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