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Marie posted this to the Circle List on 12/8/02. It is reproduced here with her kind permission. -- Robert Young, Webmaster]

WOMAN IN GRIEF It occurred to me this week that there are things I wish I had done different - before Steve died. Practical things. Sure, we both knew he was going to die, but neither of us knew when, and we certainly did not know it was going to be that night in August.

However, we had three years to prepare for it.

We downsized our house - and moved - so we could eliminate any mortgage payment.

We made sure that beneficiaries for our various investments were as we meant them to be.

We had our wills, advanced medical directive, and power of attorney forms.

We had even talked about cremation vs. burial - when the time came.

I learned how to pay bills with a telephone billpayer - and balance the accounts using Quicken.

I almost understood our complicated investments - although not really.

Then, he died.

On top of dealing with all the emotional fallout that comes with losing one's spouse, I had to take care of so many morunanticipateded things.

And I continue to do that with each and every day.

So, I have compiled a list of what I wish I had done, or known, or thought to ask, before Steve died. Maybe the list will be of use for some of you.

1. Find a big box, or suitcase, and label it "Final gift." Make sure your spouse knows it exists, and where it is kept.

2. First, make a list of your final wishes. Cremation? Casket? Interment? Services? Special music? Scripture readings? Who to call? Pallbearers? Any part of this paid for? (oh yes, you can pay for it in advance - and that would be a great idea too) Where is it? Phone number for local mortuary. What do you want anyway? This is your last chance to say what you want. Say it. If you can't bring yourself to talk about, at least write it down. Don't leave this burden on your spouse's shoulders. It's simply not fair.

3. List of EVERY account, number, advisor, security code, access,intention of the account, beneficiary, (a binder with all the monthly/quarterly statements would be a plus). The binder doesn't need to go in here, but clearly mark where such statements can be located.

4. Make a list of your assets. Keep it current. (list EVERYTHING! especially in "community property" states) Any idea how much grandpa's civil war sword is worth? Write it down. Attorney's charge by the hour. A lot!

5. Budget. Make a list of month by month expenses. (when are the property taxes due??, etc)

6. Make a list of useful household information. Where is the gas shut-off? What should be done to winterize the house? Are there long-term scheduled maintenance projects to consider? Where do we keep all this information? Plumber's name & number? Handyman? Furnace guy? How/when to replace/clean furnace filter?

7. Cars. What about the cars? Who services the car? What should be known about that? Who has insurance on them - and how much are they worth?

8. Taxes. Who does the taxes? Where do we keep that information? Any end of year things I should talk about with the accountant? If we need to pay quarterly IRS payments, how much and when due?

9. Lawyer. Do we have an estate attorney that can help with probate and estate taxes? Should we use the one who drew up our wills? (Yes, make sure there are wills, power of attorney, and advance medical directives in your possession. If you go to the hospital, they may require you to produce it anyway) If your will has a provision to set up a credit shelter trust, or other specific instructions, make sure your spouse understands that, and how it might be handled upon your death.

10. Financial Planning. Is there a plan? Is there someone you can trust to help set up a plan, if one does not exist? Who do you trust to help? If no plan, suggest to your spouse that you go to a planning seminar. Community colleges offer these courses - and are well worth the time and money spent. Go together. What will happen when your income is not part of the equation?

11. Consider including some personal things in this suitcase - a love note to your spouse, a written memory, a voice recording, something simple. Your spouse will treasure it. And while we're on the subject, if you have some old love notes hanging around the house from previous loves - now would be a good time to get rid of them. Unless you like the idea of inflicting unnecessary pain on those left behind to clean out your closet.

I am sure there are more things that could be on this holiday "gift" list so I encourage others to add to the list and share it on the circle. Maybe it will help others who need a not so gentle kick in the fanny.



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