Even though I had had some time to wrap my head around the possibility of being widowed, I didn’t ever think about all the things that would have to be done after Greg died. After Greg died, I was overwhelmed with all the things I had to do. I needed to plan a funeral, find health insurance, submit all kinds of paperwork, have Greg’s name taken off of things, and the list goes on. I am almost done settling everything now, three months later, but it has been a big job to do it all. I have spent countless hours on the phone, sent death certificates to who knows how many places, cried some tears, and done a lot of detective work to figure things out.
Greg and I knew there was a need to be prepared in case he passed away suddenly. When the possibility of vEDS was first presented to us, he was in the ICU at the U of U with a dissected renal artery. This was his second dissection and second hospital stay in 6 months, and the doctors felt he needed to be tested for vEDS. Considering Greg’s and some of our kids’ history, we knew it was true before the genetic testing results came in.
We didn’t know if Greg would make it through that hospital stay. He had some dangerous complications that prevented him from coming home quickly. I was very unsettled with the thought that we hadn’t taken the time to write wills or do any planning. We had recently refinanced our home, and I wasn’t even on the title to the house (long story). I felt a lot of anxiety about what would happen to me and the kids if Greg died right then. Greg and I decided to call a family member who is a lawyer, and he came to Greg’s bedside and helped him write a will.
We were grateful Greg was given more time and we had some time to prepare. We were young and had never thought about what would happen if either of us died. This was an opportunity to figure that out. A couple months after Greg’s hospital stay, we met with an estate lawyer to create a trust. Having the trust filled me with a lot of peace, and it continues to bring me peace because I know that through it my children will be taken care of in the event of my death.
Here is a list of things you can do now to prepare:
- Get life insurance! Get as much as you can. Greg had life insurance through his work, and that felt like enough for us at the time. After the vEDS diagnosis, Greg was uninsurable. We had never signed up for private life insurance, thinking we had time to make that a priority later. We tried several times to get him private life insurance, but never had success. If Greg had been disabled or unable to work, he would not have been able to have any life insurance. It’s always a good idea to have private life insurance that isn’t attached to a job.
- Create a trust.
- Buy cemetery plots and plan funerals in advance. Losing a loved one is disorienting and stressful. It just compounds things to have to plan a funeral on top of it all. This is something we started to do but didn’t get too far. It was hard to think of going to the cemetery to choose burial plots. Greg wrote a program for his funeral, which was very helpful, but we could have done more to plan ahead. I wish we had done more as far as the funeral plans because then I would have had less running around and decision making to do in the days following Greg’s death.
- Keep track of all bills and how they are paid. Greg took care of all of our finances. It took me some time and detective work to figure out which bills came out automatically and if they were paid automatically through the company or the bank, etc. I ended up double paying some things and missing a payment or two in the first month as I figured things out. It complicated things even further when the banks took Greg’s name off of our accounts and cancelled his cards. It would have been very helpful to have a spreadsheet that listed the bills, when they were due, and where they were coming from.
- If possible, make sure both partners are listed on all bills, including utility bills. Make sure both partners are on the titles of homes and cars. Greg was the only one on most of our bills. Each company has their own process for changing things over to someone else’s name. For some of them, it was as simple as calling them and telling them about Greg’s death. For others, it was a process that meant filling out paperwork, sending in a death certificate, and even opening a brand-new account in my name. Some companies do not have the most compassionate ways of handling a situation like mine, and there were multiple times I cried on the phone and hung up because I couldn’t handle it. I don’t know that this could have all been completely avoided, as every account has to have a primary holder. But, in some cases, it would have been helpful if my name was on the account somewhere.
- Make a spreadsheet of accounts and passwords and keep it updated. Greg did this at one point, but by the time he passed away, the list was too old, and passwords had changed. Thankfully I knew him well enough to be able to guess most of his passwords. I also had his phone and computer that had saved some passwords, which was helpful. But having a spreadsheet would have saved me some time and stress.
Getting everything settled is a process no matter how prepared you are, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. I’m grateful that we were somewhat prepared, but there are some things we could have done to avoid some stress.