Roses wilt and chocolate is soon eaten and forgotten, but giving your loved ones the gift of making sure that they’ll be taken care of no matter what happens to you lasts forever.
If it’s been awhile, now is a great time to review your insurance policies and make sure that you have adequate coverage levels. Life insurance is the most obvious one, but also look over your auto insurance and homeowners policies. It’s great to save money on coverage but not at the cost of you and your family being vulnerable to lawsuits.
Don’t forget about health insurance either. Even if you can’t afford a bells-and-whistles policy, at least look into getting a high deductible catastrophic policy that will protect you from medical bills in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you are eligible for a policy, long term disability is a good idea. Your chances of dying while your family is young are much smaller than the chance that you’ll become unable to work for an extended period of time. Many employers offer both short and long term disability policies, so check with your HR department for details, costs and how to enroll. While Social Security Disability payments are available, it can be a long and arduous process to be approved.
An emergency fund will give your family one less thing to worry about if you become seriously ill, injured or worse. If you haven’t started building one, don’t delay, as even a few dollars a week adds up and something is better than nothing. Unless there is a compelling reason not to, an emergency fund should be kept in an account that both partners can access.
If you are like me and your natural filing system is the shove-in-a-box-and-forget-it method, make the time to get your records in order. While you might know where everything is, if there is an emergency, you want to make it easy for your partner to find documents that they might need to file taxes, make insurance claims and so on.
Many couples designate one partner to be the one who takes care of the day to day financial details such as paying bills and keeping up with documents. If you’re the one taking care of the bookkeeping, take the time to make a folder or notebook for your partner with all the pertinent details so that they are able to take over should the need arise.
A spreadsheet with all your accounts, including log in details for websites and due dates should be sufficient. Your partner should have access to the email account of record on these sites as well; if you’d rather keep your personal correspondence private, your family could have “mine”, “yours”, and “ours” email accounts.
While a will is a good idea for anyone, it’s crucial if you have minor children or if you and your partner do not have the benefits of a legal marriage. Consult with an attorney to find out how you can protect your estate for your loved ones. You will also want to make sure that if you are incapacitated that your partner will be able to make decisions for you and be able to handle all of your financial affairs.
Talk to your partner about your wishes regarding end of life care, your wishes on life support, and your feelings on organ donation and funeral arrangements. It does sound grim, but should the worst happen, your partner will be able to make decisions with the comfort of knowing that they are doing what you would have wanted. You don’t want your partner to be vulnerable to the funeral industry’s sales tactics during the throes of grief.
Knock wood, you and your partner will live a long and healthy life together and be able to watch any children that you have grow and become independent. However, both of you will sleep better if you know that either one of you could step in and take over the family’s finances if need be and precautions have been taken if you become disabled or pass away. Doing this for your family is love in action.