Sarah sat at the kitchen table, a tear slowly edging its way down her cheek. A bank statement, a checkbook, and a pile of bills lay in front of her.
Jake, her husband, used to take care of things like that. “Honey, don’t worry, I’ll take care of that. I love you,” he’d say. But now Jake was in the hospital, in a coma. Overnight everything was her responsibility, and she had no idea what to do.
Sound farfetched? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve heard of husbands or wives who don’t know how to keep a checkbook or write checks. I’ve heard of clerks who are asked to change batteries in a flashlight because, “My husband used to do that. He died, and I don’t know how to do it.”
Remember, loving a person means putting the person’s best interests first. That principle extends to a time when you might not be available. I know you don’t want to think about that, but put your loved one first. It’s loving to be proactive; it’s not loving to leave the remaining person to deal with these everyday things without a clue, when stress levels and emotions are running incredibly high. Consider, too, in the case of extended hospitalization or death many issues must be done quickly to satisfy legal or other requirements.
Make sure responsible adults in your household know:
- how to keep a checkbook or record use of debit/credit cards (Believe it or not–banks can and do make mistakes. One day $100 zipped out of my savings account into another person’s due to a transposition error of two numbers at the bank. I didn’t know it until I read my statement. I did get the money back.)
- how to reconcile bank statements (see above for the reason)
- where important papers:a will, a deed , title to a vehicle , insurance papers (life, health,etc.) and funeral arrangements are kept
- the location of warranty papers for the furnace, vehicle, and major appliances
- the location of utility shut-offs
If you have power of attorney, a living will, or any documents like these, make sure another responsible person besides you knows: where those documents are, what they mean, and when they come into use.
It is also a good idea to list recurring bills and due dates. If you routinely pay the bills and don’t share the information, do you really want the other person to get a shock when a bill arrives or when less money is in the bank account than expected?
Show you love that person. Take the time to sit down and go over these things. Save stress.