I heard from a woman whose husband was just diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Her question to me:  What should a woman do before her husband dies?

My heart went out to her,  along with my admiration.  Instead of going into denial, she went into action.  Death is not easy to talk about,  let alone prepare for.  What would you do in her situation?  After all,  most women will face a similar dilemma at some point.

I’ll never forget,  when my father got ill,  I went to  my mother.  “Do you know what Daddy has planned for you when he dies?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she replied quickly, but when I pressed her for details, she couldn’t tell me.  She also made it abundantly clear:  this was not a conversation she wanted to have.  I made it even clearer:  avoidance was not an option.  Here’s what we did:

1.       We had “the talk.” I had my Mom sit down with my Dad and we looked at all the financial documents:  bank statements, investments, estate planning, etc.  This was not, by any means, an easy conversation.  Dealing with death is emotionally excruciating, at least it was for us.  Nerves were frayed.  My Mom glazed over.  My Dad lost patience.  I kept scratching my wrist (a nervous habit) until it bled.  But by the end,  my Mom knew where every penny was and what arrangements he had made… and hadn’t made.

2.       We assembled “ the team.” My Dad was very much a do-it-yourselfer.   I wanted my Mom to have her own team of professionals to support and guide her (during and after).  First on our list was to hire an estate lawyer… we found one (through my sister).  Mom, my sisters and I met with him first, brought in my father, and together my parents created a very good, tax efficient estate plan… which my Mom not only understood, but had a big  role in creating.

3.       We updated documents.  We made sure the Will, Power of Attorney, EVERYTHING reflected their latest info and current wishes.

As I said, not an easy process.  Sadly, many of us will go through this.  But being prepared, financially, will make it a little easier.

In my next post, I’ll list the final 3 steps you need to take, to prepare yourself.  Stay tuned.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money

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