It's better to have and not need, than need and not have.
You don't often hear about relationships being destroyed by anything other than infidelity, but a tragic event can have just as much damage without the proper plan. Just ask Jesse Arcobasso, whose fiancé, Collette Moreno, was killed when the car she was riding in on her way to her bachelorette party collided with another car.
A similar circumstance happened to Kim Sjostrom of Florida. As Kim was preparing for her first dance with her husband, Teddy Efkarpides, she suffered a heart attack and died. Teddy went through a joy of their new beginning one minute and the tragedy of that new beginning being cut short several hours later. Preparing for tragic events in regards to our spouse is something that we often overlook.
So what are some important things you should consider when it comes to securing your future just in case something happens to your spouse? Incorporating a family succession plan or goal setting plan can go a long way in determining how you will be prepared for those tragic events.
Here are four things every couple should discuss when preparing for future tragic events:
1. Create a family tragedy preparation plan.
In the event there is a tragedy, you can put these things in place:
- Set aside a cushion of cash or an emergency fund.
- Set up a living will/trust that should be signed very soon after you sign the marriage license. — It allows you to determine who you will transfer your property to after you die (including children), especially in the case that you both die or you are ill and can't make your own decisions.
2. There is some immediate paperwork that you will have to gather before you are able to put your finance on solid footing.
Those items are:
- Death Certificate — The death certificate will be needed for many financial procedures you will encounter. You should request several copies from the funeral director or county health department.
- Insurance Policies — These will help you determine the benefits to which you are entitled.
- Marriage Certificate — If you can't find your marriage certificate, you can usually get a copy from the courthouse of the county you were married in.
- Birth Certificates for Dependent Children.
- Certificate of Discharge from the Military — If your spouse was in the military, you may need his or her certificate of discharge to collect benefits.
- The Deceased's Will
- Complete List of all Property
3. Conduct a financial assessment to understand to what you are entitled.
- Life Insurance Benefits — Early on in your marriage, make sure that you are a named beneficiary. Most likely, the company will pay the proceeds directly to the named if you are a named beneficiary.
- Social Security — Widows are eligible for a $255 death payment designed to help pay for funeral costs. You may also be eligible for survivor's benefits, depending on your age and if you have any dependent children.
- Employee Benefits — Your spouse may have had life insurance, a 401(k) plan, vacation or sick pay, and other benefits to which you're entitled. Contact the human resources director at your spouse's workplace for a list of benefits. If your spouse was employed by a large company, you will still be eligible for health insurance under COBRA legislation for 18 months after your spouse's death.
- Veterans' Benefits — If your spouse served in the military, contact Veterans Affairs. You may be eligible for burial expenses, money toward a plot or headstone, as well as disability benefits if your spouse already was receiving such payments. Veterans are also eligible for free burial in a national cemetery.
- Miscellaneous Benefits — If your spouse belonged to a credit union, a labor union, the American Legion, a college alumni group, or other organizations, you may be eligible for insurance coverage or assistance programs.
4. Insurance is your friend in the face of tragedy.
Make sure that you have the best health coverage you can afford. You hear the saying, “as long as I have my health then…..” That is ever so true, especially if you come to a stage where you have to care for a sick partner. This can be very stressful emotionally as well as financially without health insurance.
So consider these factors when you think about your insurance needs:
- How much does your family rely on your income?
- What does it cost for those that depend on your salary to live for a year?
- Will you have to pay off major debts or unexpected expenses if you/your spouse were to die?
- If you have a company policy, how much does it cover?
- Lastly, what about your dreams? — I remember when we first got married, almost 18 years ago, my wife and I developed a list of the exciting things we wanted to do, and the places we wanted to see. The list quickly got replaced by the list of things we needed for the baby. As your family grows, so does your list of things that you will need to provide them. But recently, we realized that we can't solely live for our kids. Once you have provided all you can for them, they eventually leave and start families of their own. That's the way it's supposed to be. You have to live for yourselves. You have to dream!