As Ben Franklin, the famed American Founding Father once said, “. . . in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Both are probably not topics you want to spend your free time thinking about, let alone discussing with your significant other.
However, when you take on responsibilities and build a life with another person, there’s no escaping the topic. Building a life together often means sharing the bills, buying a home, and becoming parents. Just as it takes two to tango—and to create a family—it takes two to sit down without distraction and talk about what would happen if the worst were to happen to either of you.
Why you and your partner need a plan
While it can be difficult to imagine the world without you or your partner in it, having this difficult discussion could make a big difference to their emotional and financial wellbeing. Making a plan in case you pass away prematurely is a demonstration of the love and concern you hold for those closest to you.
Often, people let superstitious fears get in the way of planning for an uncertain future. The thought of jinxing yourself or your partner by discussing death may be irrational, but it can be hard to overcome these nagging worries.
Another thing keeping couples from discussing the future is not wanting to appear or a partner’s mistaken concern about appearing greedy. You may worry that your spouse may become suspicious or at the very least annoyed about the idea of buying life insurance or making similar plans.
However, it’s probably in your family’s best interest to set these discomforts aside. It may feel uncomfortable to talk about this now, but things could be much worse for those left behind if you were to pass away unexpectedly.
Planning for an uncertain future
So, you and your partner have set aside some time to think about what you might do if the unexpected happens. But how to start?
Might we suggest, from experience, the following:
- List all your assets. This might be a bit tedious, but it can be a good place to start. Write down your “liquid” assets, those easily converted into cash. This might include bank accounts, life or funeral insurance policies, retirement plans, stocks and bonds. Include company names and contact information for brokers, insurance agents, and banks. Some of these will go into your Will and others may not. It’s still good to have all this information written down, regardless.
- List all your debts. Note and then total all the bills and debts that require a regular payment. Include the amounts and due dates for each. This can be anything from the monthly utility bills and petrol to credit card bills and mortgage repayments.
- Check your insurance cover. Once you have a handle on how money comes into and out of your household, it might be time to make sure you’ve got enough life insurance to match your needs. You may want to consider things like getting enough to full pay off the mortgage or keeping a small funeral insurance policy to pay for this expense. The choices you make will likely depend on your age or stage of life.
- Choose a guardian for minor children. If you have children under the age of 18, you probably want to discuss guardianship issues in the event that both parents pass away. This is a sensitive conversation, but by the end of your discussion you should hopefully have one or two potential candidates. Before making a final choice, let them know you plan to name them as guardians in your Will and be sure to get their consent.
- Write a Will (or update one you already have). Having a Will can help simplify things after you die. Without one, the courts will decide who inherits your estate and who will act as your child’s guardian. These decisions are based on the law, but that not match you and your spouse’s wishes. Instead, consider drafting a Will to help insure that your wishes are followed. If you already have one, it may be time to review it and make any necessary updates.
- Discuss your funeral wishes. Lastly, and perhaps most difficult of all, you and your partner should discuss any final wishes you each have. Whether that’s preferring cremation to burial or wanting a specific type of service, sharing this information will help your spouse follow your wishes when the time comes. It may be smart to leave written instructions with your other estate documents where they can be easily accessed when the information is needed, in case you both pass at the same time or to help jog your memory when the time comes.
Thinking about the uncertainty of life is never easy. Still, it may become more of a necessity when you enter a serious relationship or start a family. The steps above may not be everything you need to do to secure the future, but they could help you and your family make a good start of preparing for the worst.