My father passed away a week ago, and my life will never be the same.
I’ve spent the past week on the east coast, helping sort out things to a manageable level for my mother, and grieving the loss of my father. My dad was the one who managed their money – he paid the bills, he made the financial decisions, and frankly he earned most of the money. My mom is capable of handling things, but it is a lot to take over all at once when you haven’t done it at all in almost 40 years of marriage. There are several things that my dad did before his death that helped us muddle through it all, though. These are things he always did – he died very unexpectedly but he was a stickler for organization and order. But for me, it was a wake up call to what I need to do to help my spouse if I was to pass away first.
1. Have a list of monthly bills or an easy to understand budget. My dad made a list every month in a notepad that included a snapshot of their entire financial picture – what was going out, what was coming in, what they owed money on. It only took me a few minutes of doublechecking to be up to speed on what bills they have and how much money went in and out in a typical month.
2. If you use the computer, have a list of logins and passwords. Literally, this saved us eons of aggravation. My dad had a list of every website he did business on, every login, and every password. So all the bills my dad paid online, my mom can too right now. I could log in to his email and check on things, I could login to all his payment sites – and I’ll be able to do so long distance as well if my mom needs more help.
3. Pay your bills well before the due date. My dad always had everything paid as soon as the bill came in. For example, he passed away on the 19th. If it was me, my mortgage would have to be paid by February 1st. Not my dad. He’d paid the February mortgage already. Their next due date is March 1st. All his bills were like that, and it gives my mom a lot of wiggle room to figure out what she’s doing. Nothing is due until at least mid-February.
4. Have your records up to date. Even my dad’s visit to the pet store for cat food the night before he died was in his checkbook ledger. His balances matched the ones at the bank exactly to the penny. I didn’t have to worry there were things looming out there we didn’t know about – everything from automatic debits for insurance to every debit transaction was neatly noted in the checkbook.
5. Keep important papers organized, and your current records too. I found easily everything I needed to sort of their finances because my dad kept everything neatly organized in two filing cabinets. From last year’s taxes (so I can help mom with this years), to records of the bills he paid by check, insurance policies, and anything else I could think to need, it all was there.
6. I hate the stock market. My dad’s 401K is worth literally half of what it was a year or so ago. And we need to roll it over into an IRA for my mom. It feels like I am going to lock in all those losses and it makes me literally cry. I am going to talk to the HR department at my dad’s work and try and figure out what to do. Of all the financial aspects, this one literally depresses me. I still have a lot to figure out about what should be done here.
7. Have more life insurance than you expect to need. My dad did have some life insurance, not a whole lot – but at least some. Life insurance is not taxable income according to the IRS (something I learned this week) so my mom will be okay for a little while. She doesn’t want to keep the same life they were living together, but she also wants to have time to decide what she wants for the future. And the life insurance will let her do that.
I’ll be back in the groove of posting soon, but it may be a bit sporadic this week. I’ve had a lot to process and a lot of figure out. My mom is ready to be in charge of the bills and she has some money to do so. Which gives us all more time to grieve.