4 Difficult Conversations Married Couples Should Be Having


You (or someone you love) will thank each other later

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

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Last year, David and I thought we might want to have a second kid, and realized that meant that we needed to get our lives organized. So a little over a year ago, I published a list on APW of some of the tasks we needed to accomplish in our household, as a way of holding myself accountable. Happily, looking back at that list, we’ve crossed every item off (high five, self!), but some of those items were way more emotionally difficult to take care of than others.

In short, we really dragged our feet about conversations involving… our own deaths. SURPRISING, RIGHT?

I didn’t want to think about dying; I didn’t want to think about losing David. But I also knew that, particularly with kids involved, it was vitally important to get things like life insurance and wills and things taken care of. I called them “difficult conversations,” and we slowly started slogging through them.

And then the last few months happened. In the span of time since summer started, it feels like we’ve lived a lifetime. Since I left on maternity leave, the following happened: I was sick during the end of my pregnancy, we welcomed an amazing baby girl, I had a life threatening emergency after giving birth, we got to know our amazing baby girl, we lost my father-in-law to cancer, we lost my grandmother a week later, and we’ve worked on executing her estate. It’s been awful. But it’s also changed the way I feel about these conversations. It’s made them feel less about death, and more about love.

What I’ve learned in the last few months is not just that you never know what life is going to throw at you. I’ve also learned that a well-planned estate is the kindest and most loving thing that you can give those that are left behind. Nobody wants to think about their own death, but for your survivors who are going to be thinking about nothing but death, and trying to sort through your paperwork while grieving, you can show your love by making that paperwork clear and organized. So, today we’ve partnered with Trusted Choice, a company that represents independent insurance agents, to talk about doing just that.

1. Write Your Wills: When we sat down to write our wills, we hired a friend who works in Estates and Trusts to walk us through the process. She had us start by filling out separate questionnaires, and then identified places where we needed to have conversations, and let us know what our options were. There are a number of things that you’ll need to figure out when you write your wills, but big ones include how you want to pass on your assets (for me, this included what should happen with my business if I died), who you want to appoint as the guardians of your children if you have them, and how you want to provide for people left behind (kids, siblings, partners, you name it). At the end of the process, our wills were pretty straightforward documents, but it took us tons of conversations about our values to get there.

Independent lawyers who focus on family law can be much more affordable than you’d think, but if you don’t want to pay for legal services you can find basic forms for wills online. (Here’s an example provided by the state bar of California, along with frequently asked questions about wills.)

2. Life Insurance: APW has, blessedly, written extensively about life insurance. However, knowledge is not (in my case) the same as action. David and I started our life insurance quest by maxing out the life insurance we’re able to purchase through his job. However, we wanted to get some additional insurance beyond that. The true pain-in-the-ass issue with life insurance is it generally involves receiving a basic medical exam, and then having the insurer go through your medical records. Amazingly, we managed to get our shit together enough to actually go through the process… and then I got turned down with a particular insurer. Why? Because I’d had complications with my first pregnancy. The honest (if embarrassing) truth, is that after that frustrating experience, I haven’t gotten up the nerve to apply for additional life insurance a second time.

That is, until I found out that our kids were getting a small portion of my father-in-law’s life insurance to help them pay for college. Amazing, right? Magical. A really profound way for their grandfather to keep loving them, even in death. It was also a huge incentive for me to get my own shit together, and find an insurer that will actually… insure me. (I am, after all, pretty healthy when not pregnant.)

If you’re starting at square one, Trusted Choice answers basic life insurance questions (like what it is and how it works) right here and more advanced questions (like how to name beneficiaries and the difference between whole life and term life insurance) here.

3. Advance Medical Directives and Living Wills: During our premarital counseling, our Rabbi handed us a form called The Five Wishes, and asked us to have a conversation with each other about how we’d like to be cared for, in the event of a major illness or while we were dying. We didn’t particularly want to have the conversation. But then, within two weeks, we went through the painful process of two of our loved ones dying. (Sensing a theme here?) It turned out that my grandmother had filled out The Five Wishes form, as well as talking about her desires with family. It meant that we were prepared for her needs and wishes. But more than that, when we pulled out the form a week after her death, I was able to read about what she hoped for us, as survivors. Knowing that she wanted us to think of her death as a time of personal growth sounds… cheesy I suppose, until you’re in the awful moment itself, and then it’s not cheesy at all.

You never know what’s going to happen, and you owe it to your partner and family to share your wishes with them, in case a situation comes up where they need to make decisions, and you can’t guide them. Having a living will, or working through a worksheet like The Five Wishes, can give you a format for that difficult conversation.

4. Document, document, document: Does your partner have all of your passwords? In case of an emergency can they log into your computer, your email, and your social media accounts? (I ask this as someone still going through notebooks and guessing at my otherwise meticulously organized grandmother’s computer password.) Do you both know how to access all of your checking accounts, savings accounts, mutual funds, retirement accounts, and credit cards? Do you have documents relating to all life insurance policies stored in a safe place? If you have a safety deposit box, do people know both where the key is and where the box is located? Only you know everything in your life that should be organized and documented, which means only you can take care of the list. If you’re not sure where to start, Get Your Shit Together is a pretty exhaustive resource the kinds of things you should be thinking about as you… get your shit together. And they make it feel less overwhelming with checklistsfree templates, and emotional guidance in the mix.

Planning is caring

Planning for death is the worst. It pushes us face to face with our fears about mortality and with the fact that we can and will lose people that we love. It also happens to be the only way that we can properly care for the people that matter to us the most when we’re no longer here to do it in person.

Grieving is awful. Grieving while trying to figure out how to locate a mutual fund, or fighting with loved ones over how to divide assets, or guessing at the deceased’s wishes? Well, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
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This post was sponsored by Trusted Choice. Every Trusted Choice agent has signed the Trusted Choice Performance Pledge, which is based in the philosophy that you’re a person, not a policy. Trusted Choice independent agents can offer almost any kind of insurance you can think of—life, rental, auto, RV, motorcycle, valuable collectibles, helicopter, internet business, and the list goes on.  Click here to get in touch with a Trusted Choice insurance agent today, and find the right policy for your needs.

The information provided in this post is intended by Trusted Choice and APW to serve as general advice and guidance for all readers. The advice herein does not constitute legal or financial advice, and Trusted Choice and quoted professionals do not take legal or financial responsibility for this information. This article does not take the place of a consultation with a legal or financial advisor.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • brooksienne

    Thank you for writing this! It’s the reminder I need to get my act together and write a will. It’s been on my to do list ever since I bought my condo in 2006(!), but now that I’m engaged and living with my fiance it’s even more pressing. Because I’m the breadwinner and we’re living in my home, and not married yet I want to make sure the condo goes to him and not my parents. While I’m sure everyone will behave my parents and my fiance don’t need the added complication of them inheriting my home while he’s living in it.

    I have already made him the beneficiary of my company-provided life insurance, and assuming I pass the life insurance medical screening I’ll have enough life insurance for him to live comfortably without my income.

  • Roselyne

    Thank you for writing this. It’s so essential. Life insurance and wills were done, for us, while I was pregnant with our first child, because it seemed essential to be able to provide for that child if something happened to either/both of us.

    Another thing to add: you absolutely need to have those conversations with your spouse, but if you’re at the getting-married age (I’m assuming generally mid-20s to early-40s), you also absolutely need to have those conversations with your parents… because for all you know you’re the one listed as primary decision-maker in case of inaptitude for both your parents (hi, mom and dad), and you A) need to know that that responsibility and expectation is there, B) need to know what’s involved (oh, you want me to handle the finances if you die? WHAT finances? What trust funds? What investments? What are we talking about? And what are your hopes for it all?) and C) what are their expectations/desires for end of life care? Their beliefs? At what point do you tell the doctors to stop trying? (For my mother, it’s significantly after I’d tell them to stop trying on me, for example – this is important information. For my father, “what I’d want for myself” seems about accurate. BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Ideally before you wind up in the emergency room at 2am with an aging sick parent and no idea that this is your responsibility.)

    Also, regrding parents: a lot of our parents don’t have their financial house as well in order as they pretend, and if they’re going to need significant financial help in 15 years, that’s also the kind of thing that you need to know in advance and PLAN FOR, rather than try to deal with on the fly without the resources. Super-uncomfortable discussion, but also really necessary.

    • jspe

      we have no idea how to have that financial conversation with our parents. Did you? any pro tips from the other side?

      • z

        My only tip is to expect it to go badly, and to have the conversation over and over and over, because they will likely procrastinate and be in denial. :-( I try to be sensitive, but at this point I have really had it up to here. Having my own children was a convenient excuse to tell my parents it’s time for them to get real about this stuff.

        Also, because their key people will tend to die/retire/become unable to serve, and finances may change, their plans and expectations will need to be reviewed often. It’s an ongoing conversation, not a one-time thing.

        • Meg Keene

          This. It’s a conversation that happens many many many times, and you hope for a little motion after every conversation.

          • Roselyne

            Or, if there’s no motion, at least a clear understanding that ‘you can count on me for this, this, and that, but not these other things because those are beyond my ability and you have to figure it out’, rather than being blindsided in 10 years with the realisation that, huh, your mom actually expects you to go live with her to take care of her and leave behind your 3 kids instead of her going into a home, and that’s not an option for obvious reasons, insert huge family fight at the most emotionally vulnerable time possible. (Actual example from my mom and my grandma. Spoiler alert: my grandmother went into a home and my mother stayed with her husband and kids, obviously, but it would have made the transition a lot less traumatic if the expectation hadn’t been there in the first place…)

          • Meg Keene

            I almost want to say it’s not always that easy, except nothing about that is not the most terrible, which basically just illustrates HOW awful these conversations can be. The two additional issues I’ve seen crop up are A) Some of the problems happen after people die, when you’re stuck with them mess, and B) You have to decide what you can live with watching loved ones go through.

            Basically, this stuff is the HARDEST.

        • AP

          This has been exactly my experience with my parents. I bring it up, they deny and put off. I’m hoping that now that I’m married and my husband and I are working toward some of these things, we can just casually drop in conversation, “the other day we met with our [accountant/lawyer/counselor/whoever] to talk about [end of life planning/wills/retirement/whathaveyou]’ and be able to refer them and start conversations from more of a “let’s all learn about this together” kind of place. I do know this: they certainly did NOT appreciate receiving a link to Get Your Shit Together.

          • z

            My view, from bitter experience, is that parents who don’t take care of business are choosing to forfeit the right to not be hassled about this stuff. But I wouldn’t be able to take such a hard line if I didn’t have some serious crises under my belt. Hoping it doesn’t come to that for you, but you might find it gets easier when you have some real-life examples.

          • AP

            What kills me is that my stepfather lost his dad about 15 years ago, and to this day he talks about how much he appreciated his dad’s organized, detailed estate planning. His dad left a binder with instructions and documents for EVERYTHING for his wife and kids. He had cancer, I believe (I never met him), so he had time to put it together when dying was a close reality, but I have made the point over and over again with my parents that not all of us are going to get that end-of-life time to plan. Heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms are no joke in my family. I want that binder! And I want to leave that binder for my loved ones, too!

          • Ashlah

            Ha! My mom would probably love it, but my in-laws would not appreciate that link either. FIL is all-around negative and has a temper, MIL is embarrassed at the financial choices they made in the past. They need to get over it and plan with us, and I like the idea of bringing it up by talking about ourselves.

          • BeeAssassin

            This is how we did it. My mom, who otherwise manages their finances pretty well, just NEVER dealt with estate planning, and with several kids, lots of intangible (read: sentimental, hard to divide) assets, and medical problems, I was getting really twitchy, especially after my experience with my father-in-law’s disaster of an estate. Once my husband and I started doing a little of our own planning, I think chatting with her about how our progress was going, got her butt in gear.

            However, my mom is also capable of being really dispassionate about finances due to her own history dealing with her parents’ estate, so there wasn’t any negativity from her, so much as inertia.

            My husband’s side (mom, half-siblings) have not been so responsive, and as other people have said, it’s hard to get involved without it coming off as meddling.

      • Roselyne

        Oh, god, it’s just COMPLICATED.

        With my parents: I started off with ‘we’re looking at estate planning and retirement accounts, do you have advice’, and over the course of a few weeks we worked that into ‘how did that work for you’ and ‘what do you see yourself needing, and do you think you have what it?’ But my parents and I have a super close relationship where we actually talk about money, so that helped. And also starting the phrasing as ‘this is something I am doing as well, and I am interested in how you did it to learn from you’ worked for our particular dynamic, but I definitely DON’T recommend it for families where the parents will take that as an invitation to walk all over you and try and manage your finances for you. And also I had that conversation with my parents alone, without my husband, because that seemed to make them more at ease.

        With my in-laws… hell if I know. My husband is uncomfortable asking them, they are uncomfortable talking about it, and I feel like I’d be meddling to step in… so the most I’m doing is couching our own budget for family-related ’emergencies’ and feeling very uncomfortable about the whole deal and swearing not to put our kids in that position.

        So, in the end: depends on your family and their specific dynamics. Sorry to not be of more help!

        • Lizzie

          I totally agree that it feels like meddling with the in-laws. I keep wondering, how dependent do they have to get before I’m allowed to say “We need to talk about the future?” Gah.

          • Anon for obvi reasons

            Oh dear god. I was reading this thread thinking of my own parents and didn’t consider my inlaws.

            My in-laws marriage is a sham, but my husband and I have given up hope they will ever get divorced. I actually hope that neither writes a will, which might happen because they are from a culture that generally doesn’t (my mother in law’s three sisters are in a huge feud because their parents died without a will specifing who would inherit their house). If my in laws do write wills, they would likely write each other out of them, or my FIL could leave a big chunk of it to his younger male “friend” (told you it was a sham). And, verbal and emotional abuse is an issue here too.

            We’ve actually tried to get my MIL to write a will before, but she hasn’t. I feel hopeless about it, but does anyone have advice about how to have this conversation when the parties are SO f***ed up, for lack of a better word? Even some legal recourse we could take if we wanted to contest a will? Or if there were no will at all? It’s so cuckoo :(

          • z

            Honestly, not doing anything now and sorting it all out later is a reasonable strategy when things are as messed up as you describe! It might be a relief to you to deliberately choose that path. Sometimes all you can do is try to set aside money for legal help or whatever, and let the chips fall where they may.

          • Anon for obvi reasons

            This is solid advice, because if we save some money to throw at any problems that come up, we’ll at least be being proactive. So much of our frustration over the years has been about my husband and I trying to influence the situation from the outside to no avail. Taking control of what we can control is a smart idea.

            We may have to let go of some entitlement too. My MIL has said multiple times that she doesn’t want “her money” to go to her husband, only to me and my husband, but won’t make a will because she doesn’t want to spend money on it (SMH) so it might be worth it to let it go if MIL passes to not fight FIL for assets if there’s no will.

          • Anon for obvi reasons

            ETA: Just want to add that my MIL’s assets aren’t our main concern by any means, and we’re not counting on getting money etc, so maybe entitlement was the wrong word (in case I sound greedy). I really mean, we have to let go of assets being allocated in any certain way when we have no control over it (even if it’s something like, FIL leaves half of the house to young male friend instead of MIL)

          • z

            Roommates!

          • Anon for obvi reasons

            Hahaha! Thanks for the laugh, I needed that!

          • z

            Maybe your MIL will like him so much, she’ll leave him her half too.

          • Amy March

            I agree with this- FIL leaves half of the house to his lover? Not your problem. MIL leaves all of her money to the man she is married to? Yup.

            Completely reasonable to have the conversation, but adults get to make terrible decisions if they want to.

          • S

            Agreed. I honestly don’t understand the mentality behind contesting wills (unless you’re the person’s spouse and are genuinely entitled to 50% because it’s half yours because you guys were a team, and then that’s not how it pans out because your spouse has an outdated will from before they even met you, or something like that. Or any other case where you have actually EARNED the right to the money you’re fighting for, either through paid work or contributing in/to the home). Being someone’s kid does not mean their money is automatically yours. You didn’t earn it and you have no right to it unless they want you to have a right to it. Even if you’re a parent, and it turns out your mother left all her money to her fleabag cat or the toyboy lover she met two years ago, and not you and your kids/her grandchildren, it’s STILL not your money just because you and your family might want or need it more. If my parents died and left all their money to something/someone outside the family or a third cousin or whatever, I’d be confused and hurt, but I wouldn’t contest it. If they left it all to my brother and none to me, I’d be heartbroken and feel betrayed and confused and wonder what on earth was going on, and I still wouldn’t contest it. And if they left all of it to me, I’d cut my brother a cheque for 50%. The only money I am genuinely entitled to is the money I earn, end of story.

          • z

            Contesting wills comes up more often when there is suspicion of fraud, coercion, or elder abuse. People who contest wills based on general fairness tend to get their cases dismissed.

          • Roselyne

            This.

            Speaking from personal experience, very much based on PROOF of elder abuse that was only partially dealt with while the person was alive. And for the record: for a lot of us, it’s not about the money, it’s about ‘you’re not gonna get away with this like nothing ever happened’.

          • Lizzie

            Ugh, that sounds like a nightmare scenario. And I know zero things about wills and estates, except for this nugget of secondhand wisdom: will > probate.

          • z

            I would say your husband needs to overcome his discomfort and take the lead here, and you are well within your rights to press the issue. Not that that’s very helpful advice. But dealing with this kind of difficult stuff is part of middle adulthood.

            I think a lot of people find that the first major crisis or request for money is when they acquire some leverage and can start demanding access to information.

          • Lizzie

            You’re right on both accounts. Since I’m better at logistics and Serious Conversations than my husband is, I tend to take the responsibility for them, but in this situation it would be better to give him a primer on living wills and then send him forth to evangelize to his parents. But they tend not to listen to him anyway, so yeah, we’ll probably have to wait until the first major handout request to dive into planning with them.

      • z
    • z

      +1. I was utterly shocked at how poorly prepared my parents were (and are)– especially as my dad owns a small business and has employees counting on him for their pay. A lot of older people prefer to deal with those their own age, and the result is that their lawyer, executor, and other key people are retired or have passed away when a crisis occurs.

      Having step-parents and step-siblings makes this even more complex. My dad recently made some very judgey remarks about our neighbor’s stepdaughter not visiting her enough, and I had to ask, “Dad, what exactly are your expectations for me as an only child and parent of toddlers, to be caring for you, her, my mom, and my mom’s partner.” Step-families can be a wonderful thing, but in the next few decades, the bill is coming due for me. Thus is the long shadow of divorce.

      • G.

        Sometimes it’s not that they prefer to deal with people their own age, but that they set things up when they were younger and used contemporaries who…also have aged or died or whatever. Then again, when my dad died (young, suddenly), it was the 90-year-old insurance agent who had originally sold the policy when he was their just-slightly-older neighbor who took care of things. So a) parents who took care of certain things haven’t needed to think about updating (but probably should) and b) sometimes the older key people can and do step in.

      • Kay

        I’m in this same boat – sandwich-generation only children, unite! My parents were actually disappointed (!) that I was expecting, because they suddenly realized that I wouldn’t be able to devote the time and resources into their care that they were counting on. None of them have saved enough for retirement, let alone the kind of long-term, inpatient care my grandparents required. And I think the fact that I am a female compounds their expectation of care. It’s going to be a mess. Long shadows and bills coming due, indeed.

        • z

          Ha, that defies logic. If a child is expected to take care of parents, then who do they think is going to take care of YOU?

        • Emily W

          Ugh. We spent last Thanksgiving cleaning out my grandma’s house and getting it ready to sell so we could *potentially* have enough money to put her in long-term care. It was, and still is, a huge headache. She did not, in any way, plan for something like that, much less the kind of care my grandfather (who had Parkinson’s) needed before he passed 4 years ago.

          My parents are starting to get those things in order again, because I think their will still reflects their early married years (ie: who will take care of the children) and not their current state. BUT my mom did tell me that she made sure there were long-term care plans in place.

    • Meg Keene

      YUP YUP YUP. And honestly, if your parents don’t have things in order, you probably want to work with them to get things in order, even if it takes a LOT of uncomfortable conversations. David and I are executing an estate for the most organized person on the face of the earth, as far as I can tell. (I never would have guessed just HOW organized my grandmother was, and bless her heart.) Doing that is still beyond stressful. There are so many things that have to be managed, it’s a whole new skill set, there was a household several states away that had to be packed up with a new baby, etc. etc. I’m terrified about what dealing with this without impeccable organization will/would be like.

      • z

        I’m so sorry this is falling on you, Meg. This this this is why I am damaging my relationship with my dad by hassling him about it every time I visit. He swore it would be done before the baby comes, and I’m 35 weeks.

        Preparing really is caring. I am really, really hurt by my dad’s choice to make this my problem (and my husband and children’s problem if there is a crisis that I have to deal with). He always says he will take care of it, but 7 years after his health crisis, it’s still not done, and it’s profoundly disrespectful to treat me this way. I just don’t know what to do. If my parents were still married, my mom would have had all this stuff in order no problem. But when she chose to leave him, she chose to put this on me as next of kin. (But hey, “children are resilient”, so I guess it’s my fault for not being resilient enough?)

        • Meg Keene

          This stuff just sucks, and you’re doing the best you can. <3 Keep on keeping on.

    • Megan

      The responses to this are very interesting and are making me feel very fortunate. My parents have always been extremely proactive about this stuff. They sat me down a few years ago to tell me that I would be their power of attorney, executor of the estate, etc and to make sure I was comfortable with it. They’ve set EVERYTHING up so there are no decisions to be made when that time comes – just executing what they’ve already laid out. I’m glad I don’t have to be the one worrying and trying to raise uncomfortable conversations.

      Also want to add, when my grandpa passed away, he thought he was being incredibly generous leaving a fully paid off house to his children. But, because he hadn’t gone through all of the necessary preparations, everything had to go through probate and by the time the legal fees were paid, there was nothing left for his kids. So its so important to consult with experts and know exactly what will happen.

    • Great point about speaking with parents. My maternal grandfather died suddenly a few years ago, and my mom & aunts struggled to find all his policies, notify his work, etc. After that experience, my mom pulled together all her information into 1 place. Every time I go home, she reminds me where it is and goes over all the things I need to do when she dies. I hate those conversations because I don’t want to acknowledge a world without my mom in it, but I also know it’s necessary.

      • Sara

        That happens with my dad all the time too. His mother’s death caused a huge ripple in his family with random bank accounts and missing paperwork, so he’s been consolidating and organizing everything lately. Its weird to talk to him about but I’m glad I know so my siblings and I don’t have the same issues.

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    • Basketcase

      There was a really good article about this on a local news website recently, from the POV of an ED nurse. Some really valid points (shame I cant find the article to link it here like I want to!)

  • MDBethann

    We meant to draw up our wills after we got married, but kept putting it off. Then last year, when I was pregnant, we realized we needed to update our insurance (the stuff through work wasn’t enough to see our child through college &/or pay off the house if needed) and do our wills. We got the insurance done, but ended up putting off the wills, financial powers of attorney, and our living wills until after the baby was born. Fortunately, we found a lawyer who took care of it all for us and we’ve told our parents & sisters our plans & where the docs are located. It was honestly a lot cheaper than I thought and we each ended up with a will, living will, and a power of attorney. Not to mention peace of mind that our daughter will be well cared for if something happens to us (and we wrote everything so it goes into a family trust established by our wills so we don’t have to update things after each child – everything is to be divided equally between all of our children).

    The financial and online password info are all great recommendations and things to definitely put on our “to do” lists. We should probably keep a copy of that info with our financial powers of attorney so our sisters know how to access our accounts if needed.

    Thanks for this post, Meg. These conversations aren’t easy, especially having them with your own parents or your spouse. Even when you know where everything is like my mom did when my grandmother died, it is still a lot of work after a loved one dies. Giving your executors as much information as possible is definitely one of the most loving things you can do for them.

    • emilyg25

      Getting a will was so much cheaper than I expected! And it was really helpful for us to go through an actual lawyer. It’s a complicated area that I know nothing about; her guidance was essential.

      • Roselyne

        Word. I’m in Canada, and a will and power of attorney for me and my husband cost less than 1K for all 4 documents (it cost about 550$ US, exchange rate accounted for). And we’re in our early 30s and in good health – term life insurance is under 60$US for both of us, per month.

    • Lizzie

      Wow, you are ON it. Inspiring!

  • TeaforTwo

    Now that we are expecting our first child, I’ve started having these conversations with my husband, and I think this article clarified some of the difficulty we are having:

    My mother died shortly after I started university. She was very well-insured, and so the financial piece was easy, but THANK GOD. My parents were middle-class people with four kids, and without that insurance our family would have been financially devastated. Instead, there was enough for me to graduate debt-free, for a few family vacations when we really needed to be together, and for my father to hire a housekeeper who cooked him dinner twice a week when he was out of his mind with grief and couldn’t take care of himself.

    The possibility that something terrible might happen feels very real to me, and less real to my husband. As does the knowledge that when you’re inert from grief (for possibly several years) and just getting through the day, it can help enormously not to have to worry about money, too.

  • emilyg25

    Life insurance in particular is time sensitive because it gets more expensive the older you are. We just bought a house so we added a term policy to cover the mortgage. It was quite affordable for 31-year-old me. Not so much for my 50-year-old husband! Yowch. Still totally worth it to have our asses covered and be able to maintain our lifestyle for our son should something happen to one of us. If that happens, the surviving spouse will have enough to deal with without having to worry about how to pay bills and put food on the table too.

    • Curious

      I’m curious about this…life insurance needs to be renewed usually, right? Does the price change at that point? I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth the hassle now when we’re 28/31with no kids and a decent amount of assets vs waiting on until we have a house/kids which might be 5-10 years from now. If a term policy is 10-20 years….does it make more financial sense to wait until 40 and have it last 20 years at that price rather than purchase at 30 and again at 50? Clearly I need to revisit the APW posts on this topic!

      • Meg Keene

        Well, the problem with that logic is, of course, that if you die between 30 and 40, you’re not covered. That’s the grim math of life insurance.

        • Curious

          Yeah, that part I understand…..but until/unless we have kids, or move for one person’s job….we are both employed with good jobs and have individually built up significant savings (we just got married and are now starting in on the joint savings). We rent but have enough to cover that for a year if one of us dies. I’m just trying to figure out the point where the hassle and cost of getting everything set up now is the right thing to do…or if we can keep putting it off like everyone else does until they have kids.

          • z

            If you have student loans, you might want to check on what happens there if you die. That was what motivated me to get this done before kids.

          • Kayjayoh

            Well, if they are federal loans:

            https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation

            “If you, the borrower, die, then your federal student loans will be discharged. If you are a parent PLUS loan borrower, then the loan may be discharged if you die, or if the student on whose behalf you obtained the loan dies.”

          • EF

            yep, worth pointing out a number of private student loans do *not* die with you. and if you’ve got a cosigner, they still have to pay them.

            So my fellow middle-of-generation-millennials who were told private loans were a good option: make sure you know your duties and rights there, too.

          • Meg Keene

            Federal student loans die with the person.

          • Meg Keene

            The cost is pretty low (think, $12/ month) and the protection is pretty damn huge if the worst happens. (And when the worst happens you need more than you think. Like, possibly significant time off from your good job, etc.) So I think it’s worth it to do NOW not later.

          • Ashlah

            Just some worst-case-scenario thoughts (because that’s what life insurance is supposed to help with): What about burial costs? What happens after the year of rent runs out and you only have one income? What if the person who dies has racked up a lot of medical bills in the preceding months/years? What if you’re in an accident and one person dies and the other can’t work?

            It sounds like you’re both pretty responsible and have more savings than a lot of people, so it’s up to you to decide what’s necessary. But I don’t think there’s really any time that some extra cushion wouldn’t be helpful to have. The hassle is really pretty limited, and the sooner you do it, the lower your locked-in rate will be. Plus, what if you end up with a diagnosis between now and when you’re ready for the hassle that precludes you from be approved? The earlier the better in my eyes.

      • Emily W

        One of the things we were told is that you can carry multiple policies.

        So, we have some through my husband’s work, and then we each have a policy for what we figured was enough for late-20s-house-but-no-kids. When we add kids to the mix, we’ll probably end up adding another big policy. A past co-worker of mine lost her husband suddenly. Her advice to me when we got married was “take out an insurance policy so large you get investigated if one of you dies.”

        • TeaforTwo

          This is such a tough balance to strike. I have posted elsewhere in this thread about how my mother’s very generous insurance policy provided for my family, and how thankful I am for that. (She was a teacher, so while she was underpaid her whole life, her benefits were very very good).

          Knowing how much we appreciated being able to take a family vacation a few months after her death, pay for school without worrying about working during the term, hire help when we needed it etc. etc., I am tempted to agree with your coworker.

          Until, of course, I started getting quotes on such insurance policies for ourselves. We are young (28 and 30) and healthy, but I worry that the $150/month that it would take to get a big fat insurance policy would be better spent elsewhere, when weighed against the chance that one or both of us will die young.

          • Emily W

            So, we live in a pretty affordable (read: nice house for less than $200k) part of the country, so I think we decided to go with a $250k policy each for now. We’ve got some insurance through my husband’s job as well, and since we’ve got very little debt, just a few student loans and our mortgage, we felt comfortable doing that. I think for the two of us, it’s about $60/month. However, we’ll probably take at least $500k each when we have kids. Because, if I did die, I’d want my kids to be in a situation like you were in, where they didn’t have to worry.

          • TeaforTwo

            Yep, there’s the rub. For us, living in an expensive city, “don’t have to worry” insurance would be about a $2 million policy right now. So we may have to accept some level of worry, because paying premiums on a policy that big would eat into our savings considerably.

          • MDBethann

            That’s pretty much what we did. We have policies that go until we’re in our 90s that will cover our final expenses, etc (also have cash value if we need it before then for some reason) and we each have a term policy for $500K to pay off the mortgage and make the other person comfy with a paid caretaker for the kids if something happens to one of us.

      • TeaforTwo

        It depends, in part, on how you think your financial picture will change over the years.

        When we talk about life insurance, we expect to need the most in our 30s, when the insurance will need to cover years of childcare, education costs, mortgage, etc.

        On the other hand, in our 50s, the kids will be grown up, and we’ll have been saving for their educations and our own retirement for years. The mortgage should be gone or close to gone. The gap then (of say, 55 to whatever year we were planning to retire and stop earning employment income anyway) is much shorter. So we should need far less insurance.

        • G.

          Yeah, my parents had extra term policies while we were growing up/in college and then cut back when we were all out of college to enough that covered the rest of the mortgage and basic cost of living/supplement to retirement funds.

      • Shebar

        The good news is you can have multiple life insurance policies taken out at different points in your life that overlap. My partner and I got individual 20 year term insurance when we got our ducks in a row. We then got an additional 20 year joint policy a few years later when we got a house that will cover the mortgage. Yes, the premiums will go up in 20 years time but we’ll have a few years before both increase and hopefully we’ll be in a better position financially to pay for the premiums because the kids will be out of daycare.

      • emilyg25

        There are also different types of policies. My husband bought a small universal life policy when he was in his 20s. He locked in a low rate because he was young and it doesn’t expire. When we got married, I bought the same policy for myself, locking in the low rate and giving us equal coverage. The idea is that this will cover funeral expenses and random loose ends, which we’ll need regardless of what our circumstances are when we die. We added the term policy for the term of our mortgage. So we won’t need to renew that. But yes, the rates would change if we did.

        You might consider buying the smallest 10- or 20-year term available just to CYA.

  • z

    I would add that these are also conversations divorcing couples should be having. My parents failed to revise their plans after their divorce, and it led to a lot of chaos during their health problems, much of which was dumped on me at the age of 18. It was a very difficult time in my life, and I lost respect for them both for handling things so poorly.

  • So many people avoid these subjects, but it’s seriously vital. Thank you for bringing it to the forefront. <3

  • lady brett

    fine, be that way.

    but really, sending that link to get your shit together to my honey now. because we’ve talked on and off about this stuff since we got married, but now we are looking at the possibility of adoption and all the stuff that seemed like a good idea but not a big deal is a big deal with kids. so we have to slog through all the conversations and the paperwork (and, honestly, we are both the kind of people where the paperwork is the part that keeps important things from happening). and probably get married legally.

  • heather_kaye

    I work with my church, a large percentage of which is elderly. As a result, we average one or two funerals a month (and oh, averages – last year we had four members die within ten days of each other). So with this in my day to day, and my own personal faith on the matter, I am very aware and honestly, rather comfortable discussing these end-of-life issues. My new husband IS NOT. He panics when I make a comment in passing about organ donation (a family friend works for Donate Life America, so that’s another common dinner-table-talk) and shuts down. It’s been getting better – they can almost be called conversations now – but it’s still so hard to get him to engage, even unwillingly. Persistence and perseverance. It gets closer every time.

  • Emily W

    I was surprised at how easy it was to get life insurance, once we decided to get it. We got a quote from our home owner’s insurance company, and one from our financial planner for a few different plans, made a decision (I honestly put this on my husband), and then once we said we wanted it, did a phone survey and someone came TO OUR HOUSE to do the medical one morning before work. Then boom, covered.

    The wills? Oh, yeah, we do need to handle that part. :/

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah, we did that, and then boom, I WASN’T covered, because I’d been depressed during pregnancy.

      So seriously ladies, if you want to get pregnant get life insurance FIRST if you can. I’m about to go through the additional life insurance rodeo again, but since it hasn’t been a year since the complications of my last birth, I may well be denied… again. (I should clarify that I do have life insurance, just, quite frankly, not as much as I probably should have.)

      • Ashlah

        Seriously, just put Life Insurance at the tippy top of your “stuff to do right now” list because you never know when life will throw you a curve ball that makes you uninsurable.

  • Mrrpaderp

    This really hits home for me. A very close friend lost her husband suddenly when he was 31 – as in, they went to the ER because he had a mild tummy ache and she came home an hour later as a widow. They didn’t have life insurance or wills; they always figured they’d get that set up when they had children. Burying him cost $20k. She can’t pay the mortgage without his income. She’s lucky to have rich parents who can pay her bills indefinitely, but if she didn’t come from money, she would have had to put her house on the market – the house she and her husband built a life together in – before she was even ready to pick up his dirty socks that didn’t quite make it into the hamper.

    Another friend lost her husband to brain cancer at 33. He was dead within 6 months of his diagnosis. She had to leave her job to care for him fulltime. They needed fulltime nurses too. It’s been 2 years and her career still hasn’t recovered. I don’t know as much about her financial situation, but it’s my understanding she’s drowning in debt.

    The tone of this article is lovely – thinking about logistics is about love, not death – but I’ve got to say, it’s also about being responsible. It is incredibly irresponsible and selfish to put your (dis)comfort ahead of your SO’s emotional and financial security. If someone relies on you to pay for the roof over his head and you don’t get life insurance, you need to sign up for life insurance TODAY. Not all policies require a medical exam. Get whatever you can. Don’t get in your car, don’t walk across a street, don’t take a bite of a sandwich without getting SOMETHING to help your SO keep the lights on if you die.

    • Lisa

      Thanks for pointing a lot of this out. My husband and I are both in our mid- to late-20s with no financial holdings so it’s always seemed unnecessary to us to get life insurance even though I’m definitely a worst-case-scenario type of person. We have parents who could definitely help the surviving spouse if it came to that, but it would be good to have something of our own in place as well. I just e-mailed our insurance agent to at least open this discussion and get some quotes on basic policies.

      • G.

        Do you have anything through work? I have a basic $50K policy through work that I figure can cover the funeral expenses and the like since I have no mortgage or other debt (and no one else is relying on my income). If both of you have access to these types of policies (in my case, already included in my benefits), it might be all you need for the moment.

        • Lisa

          Great point. I just changed jobs and haven’t gone through orientation yet so I hadn’t looked much into it. It looks like I’ve got a free policy that at least covers a year of salary, but my husband is a student so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have the same benefit.

          This is all something I can ask my insurance agent when I talk to her. She’s been really great about educating us on different options and being upfront about what is and isn’t necessary.

          • Not Sarah

            You might be able to get a basic $50k policy on your husband through your work so that you can cover his funeral expenses if something were to happen. I know my work options let me insure dependents.

          • Lisa

            That was something I was noticing when reading through my employer’s HR site. It looks like I can only do up to $20k on dependents through them, which would be about $45 annually. I’m looking forward to my agent coming back with some options so I can compare what would be the best for us.

          • Not Sarah

            $45/year for $20k seems expensive to me? I could get $125,000 on my partner for that amount and he’s 28. I think you work for a smaller organization than I do though. Hopefully your insurance agent can find you a better option!

          • Lisa

            Thanks for the perspective! I haven’t done this before so I have no idea what the market rate would be. My agent just got back to me, and we’re looking to set up a meeting this week!

    • pappenstance

      I couldn’t agree more. One ‘gift’ of being diagnosed with terminal cancer is the time it gives you to put your ducks in a row. Will is done, Advanced Directive is filed, I’ve got my urn picked out, everyone knows I’d like to die at home and not in the hospital. I still need to figure out who gets what of my very limited ‘belongings,’ but I save that for my Real Housewives binge-watching in bed. :)

      My one huge regret, though, is not signing up for life insurance as soon as my husband and I were married. I think we thought at the time (six years, three rentals and several employment ladder rungs ago) that we were too broke to need it? I don’t know, truly, what we were thinking, but what I do know is that in a very short time I’ll be leaving my husband with a mortgage on our beautiful dream house and half the ability to pay it. It’s so silly if you’re married not to have life insurance! I second the urging to do it TODAY.

      • MDBethann

        Best wishes to you and much peace.

      • Kara E

        Someone I love is in the same boat. 3 young kids too. Light and peace to you.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, trust me, I agree. I just think that this is HOW you love people… by not leaving them with situations they can’t possibly deal with, you know? I 100% agree.

  • Jessica

    We had to have some of these conversations before we were married because Husband was being deployed 30 days after the wedding and we had to be prepared for what would happen. He’s had to think about dying or being in a vegatative state since he was 21, and what that would mean for his family. I’m still not totally comfortable talking about it except that I know I want to donate organs when I die, and that I’d rather be cremated. End of list.

    My mom is currently caretaking for my grandfather, and it’s becoming more apparent that my grandmother is also heading in that direction. It has spurred her to make sure she and my dad have their shit together, and updated their will for the first time in 18 years. They are also making sure to put enough away for nursing homes and medical bills now that they can see what things cost.

    Thank you for this post. We are about to undergo combining budgets and finances (YNAB is happening), and this is a part of the conversation that we may have avoided. Husband’s sister and BIL just completed their wills and named him as “the person who makes sure their kids get money,” which must have been a difficult process for them.

  • Laura

    For those looking for ways to discuss end of life issues (more of the medical side than the financial side) with a spouse or aging parents, I highly, highly recommend the book “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande (http://www.amazon.com/Being-Mortal-Medicine-What-Matters/dp/0805095152).

    These are difficult conversations to have, particularly with aging parents who are reluctant to acknowledge their mortality. No one wants to be in a situation in which they’re forced to make medical decisions for a loved one without knowing what that person would want them to do. The book highlights some good ways to open those conversations and focus on values, realistic goals, etc. I honestly want to get this book for everyone this Christmas, because it’s that good and that important.

    • G.

      Just commenting to say YES to “Being Mortal.” So good and thoughtful and useful.

  • laddibugg

    GRRRRR I hate when sites try to be cool and edgy and use profanity in URLs…I curse like a sailor, but my job doesn’t need to know that.

    My partner and I need to sit down and figure out some of these things in the next few months. We were planning to get married in the next year, but now I’m not sure what’s going to happen since we have a surprise baby on the way. We definitely need to get on the ball so things are set by the time he comes.

    We also need to have some conversations with my parents…I just found out my dad has multiple policies (though he only had one), and my mom has zero (though I’m not sure she needs one. My father pays all the bills and she doesn’t want a funeral or burial). We also need to figure out how to set up things to make sure our future son is taken care of if something happens to the both of us AND if something then happens to my folks.

    • Lizzie

      Agree…I have to save that site to look up when I get home. Downside of edginess.

    • emilyg25

      Not being married makes it doubly important to get this stuff in order because in a lot of circumstances, your automatic next of kin is your parents, not your SO.

      • laddibugg

        Yep! The vain side of me doesn’t want to get married before the baby is here because I don’t want to look huge in any pictures, but God forbid something happen during delivery….I want to make sure things are taken care of.

        I honestly am more worried about what might happen if something happens to him. I don’t trust his mother any further than I can throw her, and neither does he. We both trust MY parents to do the right thing, but the law (and the IRS) doesn’t care about trust ;-)

        • Danielle

          You could do a legal marriage (just sign the marriage certificate in court), then do the big wedding/party thing later as planned.

          No one needs to know you signed any paperwork – just you and the law!

          • Eenie

            We’re doing this so I can get health insurance!

        • MDBethann

          We both trust one another’s parents, but we bought our house before we were married, so we drew up a legal document at closing that said how we wanted the house handled if we either split up or something happened to one of us. It was signed and notarized and legally binding. We didn’t want to risk losing our partner and then losing the house. We didn’t have insurance to cover it at the time, but at least my parents couldn’t claim my half of the house or something (not that they would have done that to him).

          If you put off getting married (though doing a legal one without pomp makes loads of sense) for awhile, you may want to see about doing at least wills and making sure any insurance that he has lists either you or your future child as the beneficiary and the same with yours listing him and your child as beneficiaries so you’re all still covered. That’s the beauty of insurance – you can list whomever you want as a beneficiary!

  • lady brett

    how did those of y’all with kids decide who to designate in your will to care for them? i feel like our options are crazy limited (our parents will be in their 80s by the time our kids are no longer minors, my brother lives across the country, we have so few friends), and it just seems like such an *enormous* thing to ask of anyone. any ideas beyond “suck it up”?

    • clairekfromtheuk

      Ooof, this is a tough one. I speak as a child free potential looker afterer of someone elses kids (who isn’t related to me) and my personal experience is that I was flattered to be asked. Yes, I went away to think about it and I could have said no but in the end, I think I would feel this way even if I weren’t BFFs with (one of the) parent(s). So bottom line – ask one of the few and take it from there.

    • Chris

      So, I had these conversations as a kid, with my parents, and also now with my partner about our kid. When I was little little (4-8?), my mom just told me that if both my parents ever died, all three of us would go to live with Aunt Mary. As a pre-teen, we continued to have that conversation, and my Mom said we could choose between living with Aunt Mary (in a different city in the same state) or Aunt Janet (in a very different state).

      All of our parents will be in their mid 80’s when the kids are out of the house, so it needed to be somebody in our generation. So, with our kid, the reasonable choices were my brother (living first in Switzerland) or my sister in law (still in the US, but not nearby at all). My spouse preferred his sister and I preferred my brother, but neither of us could come up with a logical reason why the other persons sibling was unqualified. So, we agreed to follow the results of a (high tech) coin toss:

      http://freakonomics.com/2013/01/23/having-trouble-making-a-big-decision-we-can-help/

      It landed on his sister (sad me!) but thats now known to both my brother and his sister, with my brother as next in line if his sister is unable or unwilling to take our kid. The kid sees both sets of aunts and uncles about once a year, so he’s not going to even know them super will and it would be a rocky transition but we both feel strongly that keeping children in the family is best for everyone when it’s an option.

    • emilyg25

      We weighed all the factors (location, values, ability to handle the burden, reliability, etc.) and kept in mind that this is the best choice *now.* It might change and we’ll adjust things then.

    • Laura C

      My parents ended up not making a will until I was in college because they couldn’t handle this question. They’d had people all picked out when I was little, then those people got divorced, and my parents just … put it off. Luckily with no bad outcome.

    • MDBethann

      We chose my SIL first because she’s married & has 2 kids so raising our children would be less of a burden for her than for my single sis in her early 30s (I didn’t want to turn my sis into a bad romcom plot line). But if something happens to my SIL, then my sis becomes the guardian. We also made both sisters joint trustees of the trust set up by our wills and the joint executors of our estate. We also gave my SIL secondary power of attorney over our finances if we are both simultaneously incapacitated.

      Our sisters get along really well and currently live within an hour and a half of both sets of grandparents, so it was really easy for us. Our goal was to make sure no one was shut out of our children’s lives if something happened to us.

      I agree that it isn’t fun to talk about, but we didn’t want to burden our parents & we wanted minimal disruption for our children. Yes, they will have to move from MD to NJ, but they’ll be with family who love them (including 2 older and adoring cousins) and near grandparents so it should hopefully go well, though I certainly hope it will never be necessary.

    • MDBethann

      Some folks mention changing guardians as time goes on, and that isn’t such a bad thing either. When I was 10, my godparents/guardians (my dad’s cousin & his wife; they were childless but really wanted children) divorced, so my parents re-evaluated and decided to make my mom’s sister our guardian. By the time I was 18, she got divorced and my parents decided that if something happened to them at that point, I could work something out with my aunt in terms of taking care of my sister (who is 5 years my junior). Did it matter in the end? No, but it was good that my parents engaged us in their discussions about it (for the initial change, it was along the lines of “which cousins do you want to live with if something happens to us?” and my mom’s sister had 4 kids around my age).

    • Meg Keene

      Suck it up, ask your friends :)

      I think for most of us, that’s the option. We’re named for friends, and we’ve named friends as backup. (And our first choice is David’s brother, who’s across the country. But what are you gonna do? It is what it is.)

  • Mary Jo TC

    Does anyone have advice or ideas for picking people to take care of your kids if you both die? Siblings seem like logical choices, but none of ours really share our values. My parents are young enough and able-bodied enough (for now) that I think they’d be my first choice. But that would mean moving the kids away from their hometown and from my husband’s family at a time of horrible upheaval and loss. One thing I certainly want to do is make sure that legally all of our siblings and parents have visitation rights even if they don’t have custody of the kids, even if the kids are living in a different state. It would be terrible if in the wake of a tragedy kids got estranged from half their family just because of the way the parents left things in the will.

    • Lisa

      This is something that I think about quite a bit for our future children. Family and friend dynamics are really complicated, especially when you think about who shares your core values and would be able to raise the kids in a way we would approve of.

    • emilyg25

      Our current first choice is my parents, which would involve relocating. We’ll revisit that every few years to see if a better option comes up, like if they get more infirm and my brother settles down, we’ll switch. We just don’t have a good local option. I think you have to focus on “good enough” instead of perfect, and remember that it’s not permanent.

    • Anon for obvi reasons

      I’m the Anon for obvi reasons above, struggling with the same questions due to the fact that in all honesty I would not want my son to ever be raised by my inlaws, unless their situation changed drastically. My mom at least could take in our son (my dad on his own, maybe not). My sister is not in a good life place now but maybe down the road. Our best friends are also good candidates, but I can’t imagine bypassing my inlaws for them (though my husband and I would if we died tomorrow).

      So solidarity, and no real advice, except that I think it’s something you revisit every ten years or so, so keep having that conversation.

      • Meg Keene

        I’m not sure naming parents is as common as people assume, unless your parents are young. You have to add 18 years to the age they were when your kids were born, and decide if that’s realistic. If the age you end up with is 80 or 90, it’s probably not something that’s fair to ask your parents, or put your kids through. If asked, I think most parents would request that you NOT ask them to raise a kid at 80, you know? So I think it’s pretty common to name friends, if siblings are not good options.

        • Kara E

          Agreed. One of the things that is more common is to pick someone who would PICK where your kids go. [For us, even that is hard, but did manage to pick someone to manage the money to be held in trust just in case.] Another thing worth thinking about is, if “your people” are far away: who takes care of your kids in the minutes/days after you get hit by a bus – but before your people can actually get there (our likely people are across country).

    • TeaforTwo

      We have also had a lot of back and forth about this, and wow were these ever emotional conversations. Essentially, we each had one couple on our own side of the family who we thought would be best, and it was hard not to feel like we were just picking a side.

      Eventually, we settled on a sibling who is very gentle, supportive and emotionally intelligent, figuring that our kid(s) would really need that in a time of huge upheaval and grief. They don’t parent their kids exactly the way we would, but they are incredibly loving and that seemed most important. So we were deciding less, “who would be the most like us?” and more “what will be the best for our kids in this particular, horrifying situation?”

      I also immediately ruled out anyone who does not seem to be in a happy marriage. First, because I think it’s good to model strong partnerships for kids, but also because it seems like such a huge strain could make a bad situation worse.

      • Mary Jo TC

        This is good advice. For us, I want to totally veto his brother as a potential guardian (even though he’s our son’s godfather–we considered that more honorary than anything) because he will have guns in the house, and I’m not ok with that. Even though otherwise, he’s a good person and would do his best in that situation, and I definitely want him to have a relationship with our kids no matter what. Husband doesn’t feel as strongly about guns as I do and may not like his family being pretty much ruled out by age and this issue.

        • Amy March

          I think it might help to reevaluate what you need in a guardian. Will they love your kids? Will they do what they think is best for your kids? Then I think it’s okay if they differ with you on particular issues.

          I get being “not ok” with guns in the house, but if you and your husband both die while your kids are still growing up, there will be buckets of “not ok” around that are completely out of your or anyone else’s control.

          I think focusing on these really specific choices makes a lot of sense- you want to make sure everything is the best possible- but at the end of the day you kinda need to let go and do the best you can.

          • Mary Jo TC

            Very true. “Good enough” is probably the goal here, not ideal, because obviously that would involve us not dying in the first place!

          • Laura C

            I was JUST thinking how I would rule out one of my husband’s cousins on guns alone. Luckily I think he’d be ruled out by other factors, but … I mean, putting your kid in a household where it’s significantly more likely they get shot? I’m comfortable drawing that line just like I’d draw a line if someone chain smoked in the house. (Vivid memory of my childhood friend’s hamster having a major respiratory attack when we took it out of her bedroom into the public parts of the house where her parents smoked nonstop.) There may be no perfect solution but putting your kids in a physically dangerous environment is its own thing.

          • laddibugg

            Well, the environment being particularly dangerous does depend on your own feeling about things. I’m fine with us having guns in the house as long as they are locked up when not in use, so it’s not something I could fairly rule out when choosing a caretaker (if they have the same safety standards that we do). I’d be much more worried about a chain smoker than a gun owner, personally.

          • Meg Keene

            As someone who just went through this, I think the reality is that for most of us, the options are PRETTY limited. We had a very short list of people we realistically thought we could ask. It was short enough that we didn’t feel like even “would they raise the kids Jewish” was something we could pick, let alone guns in the house. (I mean, we are not friends with people who are dumb enough to keep UNLOCKED guns in a house with children ;)

            So if you can realistically make choices that specific, I think you should, if it matters to you. But I do want to point out that very often, that’s just not a reality. It’s, “well, we can ask this couple, and this couple might agree to be a backup.” And that’s more or less it. And if that’s the case, it’s ok!!

          • Laura C

            I mean, it’s a weird question to have to ask, right? “Do we prefer someone who is religiously/politically different from us to someone in whose house our child is statistically more likely to die a bloody death?” Would you pick a smaller increase in the chance of bloody death or a larger increase in the chance that your child will end up with values significantly different from your own? If you even get the choice. And maybe there is none, but if those were the choices, like it was one or the other, I’m honestly not sure what I’d choose.

            In our case, the gun owner is also a Ted Cruz-loving Republican, so it’s a two-fer.

          • Amy March

            People who have guns and vote Republican are still capable of loving children. I’m not sure if you intended to imply otherwise but it’s quite possible to actually take good care of kids even if you have different values.

          • Laura C

            In no way did I imply that gun owners and Republicans can’t love children, and I’m confused you would infer such a thing. Capable of loving children, absolutely. Capable of being lovely people personally. But in the latter case, with values antithetical to my own in the deepest possible sense. I wouldn’t see that as an acceptable way for my kid to be raised any more than a fundamentalist Christian would think it acceptable for their kid to be raised by atheists.

          • Amy March

            Oh please. Yes, yes you did mean to suggest you find Republicans with guns unfit to be parents. Had you wanted to merely state that they didn’t share your values so you wouldn’t want your children to be raised by them, there are plenty of ways to do that. Most of which don’t involve repeatedly invoking bloodied dead kids. t. Don’t feign confusion that people could read what you said and think you meant it.

            Particularly in a thread full of worried parents without the luxury of potential guardians that check off every issue, I think it’s quite callous to suggest naming guardians with guns is making a choice that you’re okay with you kids dying a bloody death.

          • S

            Woah, yeah, I can’t speak to Laura C’s thoughts writing this but as a reader I did not read it the way you’re interpreting it at ALL. The word “love” (or care, or support, etc) wasn’t even mentioned. All Laura C said was that it would be hard for her to choose, for instance, between her kids being raised by someone who doesn’t share her values, and being raised by someone who (I think it is implied?) does share her values but happens to own a gun, and how both of those situations are less than ideal for her which makes it a confusing choice/scenario. At no point did she infer that in either of those scenarios the children wouldn’t be actively loved. All I got out of is “Neither of those situations are situations I would like my children to be raised in, ideally”, which I don’t see the problem in stating here in this conversation about how to choose who your kids go to?

          • Laura C

            I don’t know if that’s a projection of how you think, but as an assessment of how I think it’s flatly wrong. Statistically speaking, kids in households with guns are more likely to be killed by guns. Fact. That’s a factor in my thinking, absolutely. Just as chain smoking would be, to go back to the initial comparison. The gun thing is a health issue.

            The Republican thing is a values issue. I don’t think only people with my values are fit parents, but I don’t want my kid raised by someone with values antithetical to my own. There’s … a difference between what I think is ok in the world and what I want for my family. There’s a difference between who I am able to be friends with and love as adults and the values I want to see my child taught. If that’s not a distinction that makes sense to you, I really don’t know what to say.

          • Amy March

            If you don’t see how deciding to frame your comment in terms of increasing or decreasing the likelihood of orphaned children suffering a bloody death is a needlessly cruel, judgmental way to convey a difference in values, and the type of phrasing likely to haunt a reader who perhaps doesn’t have the luxury of that choices dreams, I don’t know what to say to you.

          • S

            I really think this is just a differing values thing. Laura C has expressed severe hesitation/reluctance surrounding the idea of her children growing up in a house with guns. Some might see that as silly or dramatic, but that’s just…differing values. She hasn’t made any value judgement surrounding the capacity of people who own guns to love or care for children. She hasn’t outlined any sort of moral hesitation or reluctance here, and has clearly stated that this is tied up in ideas of health/safety for her, based around existing statistics surrounding guns in the home. As an Aussie who cannot comprehend a country full of people who refuse to live without guns, I totally get it. I really, really, really, REALLY wouldn’t want my kids growing up in a house with guns. Guns, and Americans with their entitlement issues surrounding guns, scare the absolute sh*t out of me and it’s why I’d probably never raise my kids in a country where I’d be scared to send them to school. Do I think I’m “better” than anyone who owns a gun? Nope. Do I think all of the people in America who own guns have the full capacity to love their children and want the best for them and do their utmost to raise them safely? Yup. It’s not a values thing – Australia has SO many sh*tty backwards policies and the U.S, in terms of politics, is actually more progressive/aligned with my personal beliefs (as far as I can tell). But yeah, wouldn’t want to live there, wouldn’t raise kids there, because I’m scared of guns and we get U.S news over here too. All I’m getting from Laura C is a similar pervasive fear/confusion about what she believes to be “safe” for her children (no guns) and her limited alternatives. You’re saying Laura C should be sensitive to people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and that’s exactly what I’m hearing from her and why I think she’s weighing in. I’m hearing: “I’m confused/scared because I don’t have anyone to send my kids to where I can a) feel like they’re going to be safe, or b) where they will be raised with values that I share. ~I don’t have any other choices and that’s scary~.” Isn’t sharing these fears and thoughts what we’re here to do?

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, I really agree. Also, when you name a guardian, you often have a lot of frank conversations. When we were named, I asked if they wanted the kids to continue to be raised in the church. They said it was up to us and the kids, and I said that I’d probably do whatever the kids wanted in that situation. I’m 100% comfortable in churches, so if I took two kids to church and two kids to shul, that would be fine with me. But the point is, we talked about it.

            Asking someone, and then asking if they’d be fine locking up guns, or not having guns while the kids were living with them isn’t a crazy conversation to have, as long as it’s part of a respectful dialogue… about something that hopefully will NEVER happen.

            In short, I wouldn’t rule people out just on one issue, at least without talking to them about it. People will do a lot for you, in the event of something that horrible happening.

        • Not Sarah

          Based on this and Amy March’s comments, it might not be a bad idea to list your parents up until age X and then your husband’s brother as a backup :) That way, you’re representing someone from each family and you did say that you think he’s a good person and would do his best in the situation.

    • Not Sarah

      You could consider noting it to be your parents until they are of X age and then re-evaluate. It doesn’t have to be set in stone forever :)

    • laddibugg

      Great question.
      I’m pregnant now (due in April) so we’ve been talking about this. Obviously if something happens to me during, say, delivery, my partner will have to be a single dad.

      Right now, the plan is my parents. They are old (mid 60s), but people tend to live long, full lives on both sides so we still have a few years. My partner does not feel comfortable leaving our future child with his own mother–he’s ok with her watching him short term (she’s not dangerous or anything), but he had an interesting childhood and thought of her actually raising his kid terrifies him (he’s had to do a lot of work to get to the emotional place he is and doesn’t want to think of his kid having to go through that) I don’t have siblings, and he’s not close at all with either of his so those are out. Neither one of us has close cousins either.

      Our tentative plan is for our very close friends to look after our son. We threw it out there a few years ago, but nothing was ever seriously talked about, so now that Baby is a reality, we’ll have to revisit it. They are childless, but love children and always wanted their own and we agree with their lifestyle. Plus, they live close enough (next town over!) that they aren’t going to be strangers to our son–they’ll be Aunt and Uncle anyway.

      I am kind of interested about what I need to do to get things financially and legally in order, though, especially if my parents pass or become incapacitated sooner rather than later.

      • Meg Keene

        It’s flattering and wonderful to be asked, and the legality and finances are pretty straightforward. As I understand it (roughly, we just did this, but I’m not a lawyer), you leave your assets in trust for your kids, and the funds are used to raise them (including food and housing). If anything is left over at 18, they get it. But the reality is, it may not be. If (god forbid) we ended up with our friends kids, we’d have to get a bigger place pretty much right away, to house four kids, and probably a good chunk of assets would go to that. But they’d have a roof over their heads, and that’s pretty damn important! And they’d become our kids, so they’d inherit from us anyway.

        • Kara E

          You can also have someone else be the executor of that trust (it doesn’t just need to be “at 18” — could be 25 / 35 / whenever you choose). The financial aspect of it can be pretty straightforward – you just need to review from time to time to make sure it’s still accurate and that you’re still comfortable with your decisions on that front.

    • Meg Keene

      We’re named guardian for family friends kids. We’re actually really close to the siblings in question, they’re just not at the moment in a settled enough place in their life that they could reasonably raise two additional kids, so they named us, knowing that we’d keep them in touch with family, etc.

      We named a sibling as our primary, but our backup is a friend. And none of the options (for us or the kids we’re named guardian’s for) are local enough that the kids wouldn’t have to move. But that’s just not a realistic option for us. There is nobody we could name in our school district, so we didn’t even waste time worrying about it, because it’s not an option.

      I think parents are great, if they’re young enough that they’ll be able to care for kids for the duration. But our parents are in their 60s and 70s, so even if they could take a kid THIS SECOND (which is debatable enough), they don’t have 18 years of child rearing in them, and we wouldn’t want to put the kids through two parenting changes.

      • Hannah

        Also even if someone lives next door today, they could move in 3 years. I’d say that geography may be a factor in deliberations but probably shouldn’t determine anything.

        • tr

          Geography is also one of those things that’s way more important at some stages than others. For a 17 year old? It’s pretty important. For a six year old? It’s really not important at all.
          When kids are young, go with the person who’s in the best position to raise them the way you’d want them to be raised. Once they’re in high school, you can re-evaluate the plan.

          • Jenny

            Yeah, when I was 14 and 16 my parents both needed to be out of state for my dad’s medical treatment, and since I couldn’t miss 6-12 weeks of school, I stayed at home alone (with close neighbors watching), and at a friends house. Did it suck, yeah, but it was the catalyst for a lot of what if questions. I was a pretty good, self motivated kid, so that might not have worked with a different kid, but after the first time we had a conversation about what would happen to me if something happened to both of them.

          • Eenie

            Yeah, also asking someone to care for kids from a young age is different than asking them to take over in HS. I know a person who just moved in with a friend to make it through the last two years of HS even though her out of state aunt was her guardian. My parents listed ME as my younger brother’s guardian (he’s 4 years younger than me). This meant I was in charge of figuring out who could take him in to finish out the school year/s, not necessarily dropping out of school to care for him full time.

    • Eh

      Talk to the person you are considering to name guardian. We are named guardians for my husband’s cousin’s two children because their immediate families do not get along and they want their children to have relationships with both families if anything was to happen to both of them. We are also having this same struggle. We have temporarily named someone as Trustee for our life insurance. My family lives 7 hours from my husband’s family so we want to make sure that who ever we pick will maintain a relationship with both sides. And no matter what our daughter would have to move if something happened to us because we don’t have any family or friends here that we could name as her guardian (my husband’s family lives an hour away). When I was a kid my parents moved far from our extended family and they named my aunt as our guardian so if anything happened to both of my parents we would have to move far away from our friends (luckily both sides of our family lived there so we would be able to maintain relationships with them).

    • Jenny

      I would say that you may want to think about this and it will/might change as your kids get older. When I was little my parents talked about how if something happened to them I would go live with my aunt and uncle (in a totally different state), I also think communicating this to kids as you make the decision is really important. When my dad got sick when I was a teenager, we had a conversation about what I wanted if something were to happen to the both of them, which was to try and find a way to finish school at my high school. I can’t remember the logistics, but my point is that what is right for a 2-7 year old might be different than what is right for a 15 year old.

      • JC

        Absolutely, and there are other shades to this too. When my sisters and I were all minors, my parents arranged that we’d go to my aunt and uncle. After I turned 19 (so the year after high school), my mom told me that they expected me to care for my sisters should anything happen. It was a really important conversation to have, and she assured me that we’d all be taken care of, but I needed to be willing to take that role if it became necessary. It sounds like many here are contemplating revisiting guardianship over time, and I’ll add my voice to theirs that it’s a good plan to have.

      • Rose

        My parents did a similar thing; when my sister and I were younger, I know that they named one of my mom’s brothers and his wife as potential guardians, who live in another state. But when they redid their wills when we were about 15, they changed it to our grandparents, who are in the same town.

    • Basketcase

      We chose my brother. He has a child already and is a solo dad, but its what we felt was best – effectively giving our kid a sibling in place of us if we both went. We also both have significant life insurance, so it certainly wouldn’t impoverish him to take on our kid.
      When we talked to him about it, he agreed that if it happened, he would move back to our home town in order to get support from our parents.
      No reason NOT to use my parents, except the slight advantage of having a same-age-as-gone parent and a cousin-sibling that my brother brings.

  • Ashlah

    I guess the upside to my husband and I both being morbid people who assume the worst things will happen to us is that we’ve been talking about this stuff for pretty much our entire relationship. It’s never been particularly hard or uncomfortable for us to talk about, though the challenge is finding the motivation to actually *do it.*

    We finally got around to applying for life insurance when I went through my cancer scare. I don’t suggest waiting for a scare to motivate you. The stress of knowing that if I were diagnosed with cancer, I had missed my chance to provide support for my husband after my death was horrible. Thankfully I was fine, and now we both have life insurance.

    I filled out an advance directive before I went into surgery. He hasn’t filled one out, but we’ve had extensive conversations about his desires (he needs to complete one, though, in case we’re injured/killed together).

    I kinda sorta started thinking about a will, but I wasn’t totally sure what kind of things go into it. We don’t have a whole lot of stuff, and most of our financial assets have beneficiaries built in, and no kids. Could anyone explain what benefits we might get out of a will at this point in life?

    We absolutely need to set up a document with financial passwords and the combination to the safe. I’ve memorized the former and he’s memorized the latter. Not good.

    • emilyg25

      You might not need a will. When we first got married, we went to an attorney to draft them up and she told us they weren’t necessary in our situation because we were okay with how our state automatically handles stuff (first to spouse, then to parents) and we didn’t have our kid yet. But if, for example, you wanted your 2nd choice to be a sibling instead of parents, then you’d want that in writing. You can meet with attorney to learn more about what makes sense for you.

    • z

      Having a will cuts waaaaay down on the amount of time and hassle your family will spend in dealing with your estate. It can also reduce legal bills for this. And having your funeral stuff laid out will provide the comfort of knowing that they are giving you the kind of farewell you would have wanted.

      If you have any debts it might be good to check whether the debts will survive you and need to be settled as part of the estate.

    • Chris

      USE 1 PASSWORD!! https://agilebits.com/onepassword It solves all of these problems, and ALSO the “aw shit, was this websites password” password1 pas$word1 or pas$w0rd2015 perpetual issue. We have our own password vaults (for our personal stuff) a shared one for joint business finanical stuff, and he’s got a separate work one cause he works on secured material. I know the password tothe shared account, how to get the password for his personal one, and nobody has to worry about his personal and work passwords getting cross-contaminated, or me actually seeing any of that stuff.

      • CMT

        Or LastPass!

  • Anon

    Has anyone thought of long term disability coverage in addition to life insurance? My husband and I each have some through work that would cover 60% of our salaries (we make about the same amount of money), but we are thinking of getting supplemental coverage. Just wondering if anyone has this or has considered it, since it is a little expensive but also seems important.

    • Ashlah

      I’d be curious about this as well. I have the same through my work, but I’m not sure my husband does. We also don’t have to pay our life insurance premium if we’re disabled, but that wouldn’t save us that much.

    • Megan

      Me and my husband both have this. We’ve purchased supplemental coverage to max out the benefits to the legal limit (something like 90% of your salary) beyond what our employers give us. My husband works for a financial services/insurance company, so he’s a little bias, but it was one of the first things we did as soon as we got married. He always repeats “The greatest asset you have is your ability to earn an income”. You just really never know what could happen and it’s pretty cheap. I think it’s about $45/month for both of us. Well worth it for me to have peace of mind

    • Roselyne

      My mother and father both have this… starting when they were 50 or so, I believe, and they’re 61 now. So far, my father estimates that he’s payed 7K for ‘nothing’, and my mother became disabled and unable to work at 54 and will be making her original (mid-6-figure) salary until she’s 65, instead of scrabbling to make ends meet on an unexpectedly-one-salary household with kids still in college (she had my brother at 40, so…) Also, because she had disability coverage, she was able to actually stop working when her heath needed it and be able to have enough mobility to play with her grandchildren and do painting (her favorite hobby) rather than work herself until she physically couldn’t do anything.

      It also allowed for house renovations that made her life much easier in the long term, as her mobility is declining.

      If you feel you can manage with ease on a 60% income, then it might not be necessary, but I’ve definitely witnessed it’s use. Also, it’s worth noting that disability for a 50-year-old is significantly more expensive than for a 30-year-old, as with life insurance.

    • My husband and I met with a financial planner and the supplemental LTD is something we’re adding. Like you, we have LTD through our jobs at 60% coverage, but the supplemental provides the other 40% and “locks in” based on our ages & health now.

  • Megan

    Before he would marry us, the Pastor who performed our ceremony required that we put together a will, end of life directives and a comprehensive financial plan. It felt like a pain to do in the midst of all our wedding planning, but I’m actually really good he pushed us to just get it taken care of. Now we know that’s all addressed and we’ll have to base to start from when we need to update for kids.

  • raccooncity

    I’m taking a gerontology class rn and if you’re thinking about these issues, check out the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It’s a quick read and it’s mostly narrative. It’ll get you thinking about some of these conversations from the perspective of a medical doctor. It’s not just about getting old, it’s also about quality of life in other situations as well.

    • Laura

      Ha, I suggested the same thing downthread! My mom read it as well. She wishes she and her siblings had read it as they made decisions about what to do with my grandfather before he died, as it turned into a shitshow (9 opinionated children will do that).

  • JenC

    In certain circumstances I think you need to be having these conversations before you’re married (and not just if you have a child). I live on the other side of the country to my parents, my partners parents live in a different country. We’ve had to be each other’s next of kin since moving in with each other because our families are so far away. If you would be asking for a pre-nup, you want a will in my opinion. If you can’t pay the bills on one persons salary, then you need life insurance but you also probably need illness and disability cover.

    It’s important to review these things regularly, particularly if you split up. My mum didn’t have a will for a long time, was in a bad car crash and realised if something would have happened my dad would have got everything (they’d been divorced several years at this point). Certain opinions about this stuff can change too, sometimes related to our faith and sometimes through watching what others have gone through. I know this won’t suit everyone but usually around this time every year, my mum will review everything with me. She’s lost a lot of people between the last two weeks of October and first two weeks of December, so it obviously gets her down but thinking about the difficult stuff (I don’t know if this is a particularly busy time for deaths or I’m just picking up a pattern because of my mum but 4 out of the seven funerals I’ve attended have been in this period and so this is becoming my period to talk about it too). Every year, she tells me what policies and pensions she has, how much was left on the mortgage, who the mortgage was with and how much it was, where the deeds to the house are and that she doesnt care what happens as long as she is dead. Since we’ve been having these conversations yearly since I was 14, now it’s just a 5 minute update.

    Finally, I know this seems obvious but respect your parents/partners decisions, understanding why they want something specific is fine but don’t try to change their minds. You and your partner could be aligned really well with your life views but your end of life views are completely different. Our views are the polar opposites and will cause a great deal of pain to the other for the exact same reasons – I wouldn’t want to be on life support because I wouldnt want to draw out the suffering, he wants to be on life support in case there’s a silver lining and to ease the suffering. We both want the same thing, which is to reduce our families loss, but see different ways of doing it.

  • snowmentality

    Can we talk about planning for long-term care needs? Because my husband and I are dealing with this now, about 20 years earlier than we thought we’d need to. My FIL became quadriplegic after an infection that attacked his spine. He can’t even turn himself in bed. He and MIL can’t afford to pay for full-time care or even part-time care. MIL utterly refuses to even talk to a lawyer about qualifying for Medicaid because she fears being left impoverished. (And she’s not totally unreasonable to fear that; she and FIL aren’t even 65 years old yet, and draining their modest savings now would mean she’d have nothing for her own old age. But she won’t even try to see if there are options that would protect her; she’s already convinced herself a lawyer would just charge her ten grand to say she had to lose everything to Medicaid.)

    So MIL, my husband, and my BIL are exhausting themselves taking turns nursing FIL (all work full time, but varying shifts). My husband doesn’t make it home before 10 PM at least 3 nights a week. We’ve been doing this for a year and a half and it is taking a huge toll. MIL and I have gotten in a screaming fight and not spoken for months (when our relationship used to be great); my husband is showing symptoms of depression; I’m starting to give up on the idea of having kids because how can we fit caregiving for an infant on top of this? My husband would quit taking shifts with his dad, but that would leave it all on his brother’s shoulders, and that’s neither fair nor feasible.

    I know long-term care insurance is a complicated topic, and so are other means of long-term care planning (like trusts, reverse mortgages, etc.) But please don’t be as resistant to even talking to an elder law attorney as my MIL has been.

    • Amy March

      If she has a really negative gut reaction to a lawyer, what about a social worker? Many hospitals and care agencies have them on staff, or his doctor might be able to give you a referral. Or can your husband talk to a lawyer to get more information about options?

      • Jenny

        Seconding this. Social workers are trained in helping families navigate these kinds of situations.

      • snowmentality

        It’s possible. He does get a weekly nurse visit covered by Medicare, and the agency who sends the nurse does, I think, have a social worker on staff. Maybe my husband could talk to that social worker on his own even if MIL won’t make an appointment (which I can guarantee she won’t; she would see no point because she truly believes there are no other options). Hell, it would even just be worthwhile for him to talk to a social worker about his own stress and burnout, and he could frame it that way to his mom while still being perfectly honest.

    • Bsquillo

      I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. Dealing with chronic health issues decades before you planned on it is tough. The only thing that has made my dad’s early-onset Alzheimer’s easier on my family is that he did have an excellent long-term care policy through his employer. Otherwise, there is no way he or his family would be able to afford the near constant care he needs.

      Because of this experience, I’m definitely planning on getting long term care coverage for myself. So often people need care beyond what spouses and children can provide. I hope your husband is able to not feel guilty about this, and hope that you are able to find a solution that is best for everyone. [Hugs]

    • Kate

      I’m sorry you’re having to go through what sounds like a pretty terrible time. I don’t know if you’ll see this 6 days later, BUT just in case…I third the social worker idea. And perhaps there’s a friend who is a lawyer or a friend-of-a-friend who can at least point you in the right direction? Or even you or your husband’s own doctor could help? There are resources out there for logistics, support, etc.- the trick is finding them. I believe you should take steps even without your MIL for the good of all and to protect and support your own marriage (and rest of the family). Sometimes being a grown up is knowing when to go around/over someone else. hugs

  • BeeAssassin

    When my father in law died unexpectedly, he left behind a mess: a neurotic, mean-spirited girlfriend who had no way to support herself, no life insurance (he’d let it lapse by accident the year before), no will, a mortgage to take care of (he’d re-mortgaged his paid-off house, which came as a shock to my husband), and a house that was in disrepair. My husband is an only child and he had to deal with that entire mess himself, from the other side of the country. It left absolutely no room for grieving, and lots of room for frustration and anger at his dad, which just made my husband and me feel worse. In addition, it was shockingly expensive to properly take care of everything when someone dies intestate – it took over a year and a significant chunk of our disposable income (thank goodness we had disposable income to spend on it!) each month to deal with it.

    For that year, it felt like in some ways our life was on hold while we just cleaned up the mess his dad left behind. Plus the fights – we fought CONSTANTLY over how to deal with the estate, likely because it brought up issues of our own mortality, expectations of each other, and the financial stress it was putting us under. Even now, two years later, memories of his dad are still mixed up with the despair and frustration we felt for over a year after his passing.

    My aunt, when she became ill and passed shortly thereafter, had a will, medical directives, everything. We were able to respect her wishes about life support without being having to go through that agonizing decision ourselves, her estate practically wrapped itself up. My family was able to focus on taking care of her in her last days, and after she passed, we were able to focus on grieving.

    Taking care of this stuff really is the best way to show you care. And, from a totally selfish standpoint, how do you want your family to grieve you: with mixed feelings of grief, resentment, and frustration; or with sadness and fondness?

  • Eh

    My husband and I need to get our butts in gear and do this. My husband hates talking about death so it’s like pulling teeth to have any conversations about estate planning. However, this is a frequent topic among our family because my BIL is in the process of legally adopting two of his daughters to insure that if anything happens to his wife they will not be taken from the stable family they currently live in (with the only father they have ever known). Also, we are the guardians of my husband’s cousin’s children if anything happens to him and his wife. We have life insurance and we added our daughter as beneficiary right after she was born. When our financial planner asked us who the Trustee would be both of us froze. We did pick someone but it’s not written in stone. The hardest part for us to pick a guardian/trustee for our daughter is that our families live far apart and we would want her to have a relationship with both sides if something happened to both of us. The person we named as Trustee is probably the most logical person, but we need to have that conversation with him first to ensure that he knows our wishes. That exact issue is why we are the guardians of my husband’s cousin’s children. Their families do not get along so they appointed us since we get along with both sides and they trust us to respect their wishes that both families have contact with their children.

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  • Anna Wagner

    So very important. My father-in-law died just 3 weeks after we got married, and we quickly realized the importance of all of this and started the very beginnings of these conversations. Luckily, my mother-in-law is still around, but the estate is still a lot to deal with legally because it’s a farm and the husband’s grandparents are still around and they still own some of the land his family farms. When you own property, estate planning is even more important because if it’s not properly planned your family can get hit with serious taxes they may not be prepared for.

    My family also farms and my parents have nothing prepared for if something happens to my dad, who’s the sole operator of the farm. My mom could not take over the farming duties, they have payments to make on their house still with the farm as collateral on that loan, there is no solid transfer plan, none of my siblings are taking over the farm, and neither of them have a will. That scares the crap out of me, because if anything happens it’s going to be a big headache. They haven’t dealt with it, I’m sure, because it is so scary and because they don’t know how to figure everything out.

    We don’t have a lot to deal with ourselves right now, as we don’t own any property or have any children, but the point about making sure someone can find your passwords and important documents is great for anyone.

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  • Becks

    A few years ago my father started getting rid of stuff pretty meticulously. He hauled tons and tons of things out of the basement and closets and generally just got rid of a bunch of items he had collected through the years. His colleague had just lost a parent and had a hard time sifting through his parents’ home. My dad wanted to spare us that experience and took action himself.
    I laughed at him a little for doing it, but at the same time it made me feel incredibly loved.

    That is one thing that will stick with me, even after he’s gone: He’s thoughtfullness, and quiet support.

  • Emma Jennet

    I know that people hate any medical exams that come with getting an insurance policy. 18 years ago, when my parents started a business together, the had to get business insurance, and the medical exams to go with it. If they hadn’t had those exams, it probably would’ve taken a lot longer to find out that my father had Hepatitis C. Thank whichever deity you pray to that Mum and I don’t have it, but it just goes to show, those exams can be a blessing in disguise.

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