Katlyn was elated! She said, “I’m so glad to hear this! You have no idea how many widows call here crying because they don’t know how to deal with their husbands’, stock account or for that matter any of the other family bills. I also get calls from widowers whose wife handled the family finances.”
I took what Katlyn said to heart. I know none of us like to even think about this. But in this time of the uncertainty of Covid-19, the likelihood of an early demise is possible. I gave some serious consideration to what my passing would be like for my bride. Sure, I had life insurance to replace my income. I even had a policy on her left over from the days when our children were young which enabled me to hire someone to help her while I was at work. My wife is a smart, professional woman, but she didn’t know about the day-to-day bill handling. That was always my role.
I had nightmares about Arlene having to deal with the computer program I used for accounting or filing for taxes. I became quite creative to ensure that she would not have to deal with any of our finances until she wanted to take them on. I got to work on a loose-leaf binder which we call the Red Book. I listed all our credit cards, bank, gas, electric, water, mortgage payment, and any monthly on-line billing. I set these up to go directly to our checking account, then connected the checking account to our savings account as an overflow. Each folder is clearly marked and contains all the information step by step about the bills, life insurance policies, and stock accounts. I slept soundly thinking about the loose-leaf binder safely on the shelf within her reach.
I felt so relieved. I was also happy that I could express my love to her this practical way. Decades ago, when we were on the mission field, we had at least set up wills, and power of attorney for health care. I know many couples and parents who have not set up their wills. Even older people like us. Please, as an act of love, at least create your will so that confusion or arguments will not be part of a family grieving process. And consider creating your own Red Book.
And lastly, we faced the hardest part. After our parents died, we had, of course, talked from time to time about what each of us would want in terms of our funerals. And we also talked about how frustrating it was trying to guess what our parents would truly have wanted.
We discussed our funeral preferences and burial including pastor, music, slides, songs, memories, and sharing from friends and family. Since I am a Navy veteran it was simple for me to get all the papers together for a memorial, or service at the National Cemetery and put that information in the binder.
We talked with our adult children and told them about the binder in case we pass on together. They really appreciated it. None of us know our final circumstances so we wanted to cover any scenario and make things as easy as possible for them. We also decided to help each other write our obituaries. That was quite an experience! It was sad to think about but also filled us with so many wonderful memories as we re-lived our life together.
These conversations and plans were not a fun process by any stretch of the imagination but both of us are so glad we did it. And so glad it is behind us! I’m sharing this with you in hopes that Katlyn, and others who deal with the public and their finances will have less widows and widowers to rescue.