I have a cartoon pasted above my desk showing two men in angel garb, each with a halo, floating on a heavenly cloud. Looking down towards earth, one says with a big smile,” I love this. I’ve been up here for 11 years, and my will is still in probate.”
This is an amusing cartoon but in reality, it’s not funny. Because having your will drag on in probate will create heartache, headache and expense for your widow. “My what?"you ask. “I’m not planning on dying any time soon.”
Great. I hope you don’t, because the best way to protect your wife against widowhood is for you not to die. But eventually, you will, just like the rest of us. We just don’t know when that will happen. Could be in ten or twenty years; it could be tomorrow.
It’s tough to think about, but according to the U.S. Census figures, the average age a woman is widowed is 56 years old. Your widow might be on either end of that mean average. if you’re not thinking about how that wonderful woman you married will cope without you, you’re underestimating how much you mean to her.
If you’re not sharing financial information with her, it’s fair to assume that you don’t consider her to be an equal partner in your marriage. Uncle Sam considers her an equal partner, especially if you live in a community property state. By legal and financial definition, your wife takes on half of the financial responsibility in your household.
If you die, your widow will have to pay off your creditors, even if she doesn’t know about them. If you don’t have a will, a revocable living trust and durable powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions in case you are incapacitated, you’re showing your wife a side of you that isn’t heroic or manly.
Your wife may never tell you how worried she is about being widowed. She may have tried, but somehow you manage to turn her off by accusing her of nagging or being morbid. So, she’s stuck. She can’t write your will, or create a living trust without your input. She can’t take your medical exam for an insurance policy. If you’re in denial about your mortality, you’re placing the woman you love at risk.
The woman you married may still be at your side. But she may not trust you as much or be as comfortable with you as she used to be. You’ve changed in her eyes because you’re not meeting one of her deepest needs - the need to feel protected and secure in this relationship in which she invested so much time, love, effort and faith over the years. That wonderful woman, without whom you might be lost, is not going to suddenly be able to take charge of the finances if she hasn’t been involved before.
You have the chance to do something truly heroic. Bite the bullet. Face your mortality. Be the man who loves his wife enough to provide for her even though you’re not there to enjoy it with her. Start the estate planning process. Create a revocable living trust.
Don't do these this by downloading forms from the internet. See a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. That way, you're sure things will be done right. Get long- term care insurance so she doesn’t spend her own golden years taking care of you. Share the financial records with her.
If she doesn’t understand them, explain things to her. Introduce her to your broker, lawyer and accountant. Urge her to meet with them whenever you do. The questions she asks are not dumb questions. They‘re simply questions that haven’t been explained properly.
If you really meant those wedding vows of love, honor and cherish, here’s your chance to walk the talk. Life without you will be hard enough for the woman you love. Don’t add to her grief and loss by leaving her with a financial burden she may not know how to handle. Real men face their mortality. That’s what makes them heroes.