“In Case You’re Left Alone: A Checklist,” Ensign, June 1986, 69
It is easy to become discouraged at the loss of a spouse. Besides the problem of loneliness, there are the endless everyday details—the little odds and ends that have always been taken care of by the spouse—that suddenly become overwhelming once the spouse is gone.
One sister whose husband was killed suddenly had seldom driven the car and didn’t know how to put in gas. An elderly widowed brother had never done any cooking and had no idea where to begin. Still another sister was left with massive medical bills when her husband died after a long illness. Her husband had always taken care of the household bills, and she felt overwhelmed by the sudden financial responsibility. Fortunately, he had prepared a ledger with vital information in it, including his life insurance policy, a list of his assets and other available money, and information about his individual retirement account.
The Lord has counseled us, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30.) Our individual and family preparedness should include being able to take care of ourselves and our families in such trying situations. Even if one spouse takes the major financial responsibility, both spouses should be familiar with necessary financial information. You should know the answers to the following questions, in case of the loss of a spouse:
Do you have insurance? If so, what kind? Life? Health and accident? Mortgage? Other special types? Do you know the name of the company and where to find the policy number? Be familiar with what the policy covers, and keep the beneficiaries up to date.
Do you have a safety deposit box? If so, do you know what is kept in it? Where is the key? Where is the box located?
Do you have real property? Where is it? How is the title listed? Do you have income from real estate? If so, how much?
Do you and your spouse both have a will, listing items and how they should be distributed? If you have young children, does it designate who should care for them if something should happen to you?
Do you have monthly bills, such as a car payment, a house payment, or bills for telephone, electricity, or heat? You should know approximately how much each of these runs each month, and where to pay them.
Do you need to file a tax return? State? Federal? A quarterly income tax estimate? An estimated tax return? An estate and/or inheritance tax return? Know which of these apply to you in case you need to file and pay them yourself.
Do you know your annuity number and that of your spouse? Do you know your social security numbers? You should know where to find them quickly.
Do you know where important papers are, such as birth certificates of your children or the death certificate of your spouse?
If you have questions, consult a specialist—an accountant or an attorney.
The responsibilities do not stop with financial matters. One recently divorced sister couldn’t understand why her car kept swerving off the road until a kind neighbor asked how long it had been since she had the tires aligned. She didn’t even know that car tires needed to be aligned! Such skills as basic cooking, sewing, mending, shopping, and cleaning, as well as car, house, and yard maintenance can be learned and practiced now. Such preparation lends great peace of mind; the key is to prepare now.Joyce D. Maxfield, Provo, Utah