I’ve come across a topic that seems to strike a chord with many: How to be prepared for the unthinkable (all those things we pretend won’t happen to us – unexpected death, disability, etc.) that we all fear.
I’m not talking about how to prevent these things – most of the time we can’t. I’m talking about how to leave our things in order for those we love and may leave behind. In fact, I was referred to a valuable website that is a direct result of an unexpected death. A young mom said goodbye to her husband as he headed out on a bike ride and he never returned. He was struck by a van and, after a week in the ICU, it was clear he would never recover and she made the hard decision to let him go.
With 2 young children, and now a single mom, she also had to learn all the financial stuff her husband had previously taken care of, in addition to grieving. She decided that no one else should ever have to go through what she did and started the site Get Your Shit Together. Yes, I know the name is a little rough, but so is what happened to Chanel Reynolds 4 years ago.
Most people can relate to being in her shoes – in fact many of us have experienced an unexpected loss, and know the pain and the anxiety of not knowing what happens next.
In my career, I counsel many people in all stages of life, and while the advice on organizing one’s financial affairs has always been around (“Get a will”, “make sure you have life insurance”, etc.) its the context of what she says that is so powerful and motivating.
No one is going to do this for you – only you and your partner can prepare. However, her message is that it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, here’s a quote from her homepage:
Life and Death Planning: Low effort, high reward.
There are a few simple things I wish I had taken care of before my life went sideways, like a will, living will, and some details jotted down. Should the ground fall out from under your feet—plan now for a softer landing. In fact, it’s easy to finish the planning and basic papers your life needs.
In 2009 my husband was killed in an accident. In the following hours, weeks, and months I was shocked by the number of things we had left disorganized or ignored. Critical documents you can spend a fraction of the time doing now.
The site offers lots of simple but powerful tips and wisdom learned the hard way. It includes things like checklists for account numbers and passwords, sample will and power of attorney templates and many other tools. She credits not filing for bankruptcy or losing her home to her husband’s life insurance policy. It wasn’t a lot ($200,000) but enough to get her through very tough times. She now has a $1 million dollar policy.
The site is relatively new, but is has taken off in the social media world, particularly Facebook.
She gives her blunt advice on choosing the person to be an executor or guardian of children. “If you are at a loss for whom to name, get out there and tighten up your friends and family relationships. Find some better friends. Be a better friend. This is everything. This means everything.”
This information is by no means unique and is available in lots of places, but her experience gives it a raw sense of urgency we feel when reading it. Check it out and pass it on.