Friday, February 17, 2012

What if You Died Tomorrow?

I have to admit that while I was in the hospital, I had a number of concerns not only about my health but also about what would happen if I got bad news from the test results (when you are staring at four empty walls for hours on end your mind has plenty of time to think about all kinds of distressing things such as needing heart or brain surgery and the unfortunate outcome which could be death or something like it...).  This got me to thinking about what would happen to the spouse if I were to die.  I pride myself on being prepared for everything but still there were concerns because while my information is fairly well organized, I am still the person who takes care of nearly everything in the home when it comes to life business (ie: banking, investments, fixing random home problems and computer problems, taking care of everything from insurance to registering the car, etc).  Here are the things I was thinking about that I will remedy ASAP so that if the worst does happen, at least the spouse will have fewer things to worry about:
  • Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney.  Everyone should have these documents.  The problem I had with these papers is that they haven't been updated in over a year and thus don't cover our current situation (ie: assets that were named in the Will we no longer have, etc).  Also, these documents are in storage so it would have been difficult for the spouse to grab them at a moment's notice and take them to the hospital if they would have been needed.
  • A very specific "If I Die" document.  I was thinking about all of the things that, should I have died, I would have wanted the spouse to know.  So I will write a document that covers everything I can think of.  Some examples: I want to be cremated (the spouse is staunchly Catholic and feels that a proper burial is, well, only proper, whereas I feel the land should be for the living not used by the dead who don't need it any more).  If I am on life support with no hope of recovery I want the spouse to pull the plug (again, we have talked about this but I am afraid the spouse wouldn't do this so I may need to make my wishes known more clearly in my Living Will and with the spouse's sister who I am sure would be on hand in such a situation).  A specific list of websites/blogs/other social media accounts with instructions for how to make a final posting on these sites (the spouse isn't particularly computer savvy so the instructions would have to be pretty well laid out).  Et al.
  • I am also thinking of writing up a step by step document, kind of like a check list, of things that would need to be done after I die.  Since I have often worked with people who have had a spouse or child die unexpectedly I know first hand that the last thing they are thinking about is what needs to be done on their or their loved one's behalf because they are too busy grieving.  The checklist would probably be fairly exhaustive and include such things as outlined on this list.
  • Then I got to thinking about what things may come up that should probably go to the grave with me.  While the spouse and I have few (that I know of) secrets from each other, there are some things in my past that should probably stay there.  This means that if you have secrets you want kept, they probably shouldn't be delineated on your computer where eventually someone will find them.  Ditto for any written things that shouldn't be found.  Ditto for secret accounts that shouldn't find their way in some form back to you.  In other words, if you have secrets, make sure that they can evaporate once you die and in no way can be traced back to you.
  • And finally, a last letter to the spouse saying whatever it is that I want to say.  I am pretty sure that the spouse knows how I feel about, well, most everything, but a final letter seems like a nice thing to do to tie up any loose ends.
Overall, this is a pretty morbid topic but on any given day, you will read in the paper about people who have died unexpectedly (car wreck, shooting, whatever), who probably will have left a loved one behind who will then need to sort out everything at the worst possible time.  It just seems useful that, while we prepare for any other eventuality, we also give some forethought to what would happen if we are no longer here tomorrow.


  1. My father-in-law recently passed from Leukemia. He was diagnosed and in a little more than 30 days, he was gone. He had various accounts with different banks which would have been a disaster for us to figure out if he had not done two things to make it fairly simple

    1.) Named my wife as co-owner of most of the accounts and having her as beneficiary on the rest.
    2.) Wrote down all account information and monthly balances in his "Doomsday" book along with instructions on how to claim the accounts and the forms for doing so.

    This made things a lot easier on her to get it all straight.

    I believe we will be creating a "Doomsday Book" of our own to make sure we each have the information the other needs in the event of death or for the guardians of our children should we both expire.

  2. It's "When I Die" not "If I Die"!

  3. Clint--I like the idea of a "Doomsday Book" I may have to use that title myself.
    E--You are correct, although "if" sounds better, "when" is far more applicable.