Preparing for the death of a partner or spouse.
In preparing for my partner's death I learned many things. Although he was with me for many years we were not married. With that in mind, this list is specifically designed for partners who are not married. Many of the suggestions will fit married couple as well. This list is based on my personal experience and was true for me. Be sure to double check that these things are also true for your situation and location. They may be different.
To do before
There is a form in some states about disposal of remains and who has the right to control them. It comes from the state mortuary board. If your state has this, you need to get a copy and have it signed and witnessed. Otherwise this right goes to the closest living relative.
Get a medical power of attorney form completed and notarized.
Have a legal power of attorney form created so you can make any financial decisions while your loved one is alive but can’t make them for him/herself.
Make a will or a trust.
Make a living will so that your wishes for care when you can't speak will be followed. This should be witnessed and notarized.
* Have joint signatures on checking, savings, safety deposit boxes, etc. so that you can access them after he/she has passed, without any problems. If any of these have beneficiaries they should be “transfer on death” with the name of the beneficiary so that they don’t have to go to court to get any inheritance. Transfer on death or beneficiaries supersedes a will, so be sure they match up. If you are expected to pay for your loved one’s expenses be sure that you are the beneficiary of the account where the money for this is held.
Get all pins, passwords, and the social security number.
Make a list of any things like insurance policies, a forgotten stock or bond, etc. so that you know exactly where everything is.
If it looks like your loved one will be heading into hospice at home, plan as far ahead as you are able for home help. Right now there is a shortage of help and many agencies need 2-4 weeks notice to offer help. Unless you have friends that can come and take over at night, you will need to get private pay help so you can take a break and sleep.
If your loved one chooses “do not resuscitate”, you need that form posted on your refrigerator for all to see and follow. That is where EMT’s will look for guidance.
Make a list of medications and other important medical information and print it out so it is handy if you need to go to the hospital.
Think about if you want cremation, burial etc. and make decisions while the loved one is still in good shape and can choose for themselves. Cremation is a lot less expensive than burial (which can be $1500-20,000 for everything involved).
Make a list of people who need to be notified (phone numbers and email addresses). You can divide up the list and give it to various family members and friends so that you only have to make one or two calls and they can do the rest. This is not a job that is easy to do on your own. I didn’t feel like calling anyone but it had to be done. So make it as easy for yourself as you can.
You can have hospice in your home or the other option is to have your loved one in a hospice care center (like a specialized nursing home). Hospice will provide equipment (beds, commode, oxygen, etc.) medication, supplies (like adult diapers, cremes, etc.) all for free. They will send a nurse at least once a week and there is a nurse to call for advice 24 hrs a day. There’s also a doctor they can consult. They will send a nurse to help with bathing once or twice a week. They also offer a social worker and chaplain (non religious). When the loved one passes they will come and help prepare the body (bathe it). And they offer lots of options for grief support. They do not offer any daily home help. That has to be done by friends, family or private pay help.
If your loved one is on Social Security, call as soon as you can to stop any payments. Otherwise you have to repay them. Same thing with any pensions.
If they have any other financial income, like an annuity or insurance policy, call them too.
Get someone to take all the medications (especially pain stuff) to a local disposal center. Here it is Walgreens or Rite Aid. In some places it is the local police station.
Be careful on the death certificate that you don’t check “spouse” unless you have a legal document for your relationship. The deceased is “single” without a legal document.
*IRA’s and 401Ks can be rolled over into a beneficiary’s estate account. This account is good for 10 years. Money can be withdrawn as desired during that time but must be emptied within 10 years. This helps control the income so that an inheritance will not create a higher income bracket for taxes.
You will need an EIN number (like a social security number except for businesses and estates) for the deceased’s finances. A tax form for the estate, as well as for the individual, will need to be completed. In many cases a CPAs can do this for you. When the estate is complicated a lawyer and a CPA will be needed.
I hope all this information is helpful.
* I am not a financial or tax expert so double check this with your CPA or broker account to be sure it is true for you.