Daniel took care of the business affairs during our marriage. He was conscientious, detail- oriented, and kept excellent records. He insisted that we have a lawyer who drafted a will and power of attorney, a doctor, and insurance coverage. He took care of the taxes, managed the money, and fixed computer problems. It was “boring stuff”, and I was interested in other things.
Then Daniel’s memory began to fail - particularly after emergency surgery. Still, things were fine thanks to his management plan. Until his memory was so bad that . . .
I had to take over and was totally unprepared - a truth that left me confused, stressed, and struggling.
In hindsight, I would be interested in the “boring stuff” - asking questions, knowing what was happenning, and being aware. While having Daniel take care of those things was a relief, the cost was high in the long run. My word to the wise: don’t make the same mistake.
The following is basic information I learned.
Wills and Power of Attorney
Generally speaking, the will protected Daniel’s assets after he died, and a power of attorney protected them during his lifetime. Together the will and power of attorney formed an umbrella of financial protection.
A will directs how a person’s property is distributed upon death. It gives the person and the family a plan to deal with the unexpected and states what should happen with his or her personal possessions. It takes away the drama of fights over assets, eliminates potential court battles, and gives family members a plan.
According to Dave Ramsey, radio show host, and personal finance personality, six out of 10 people don’t have a will.
His company surveyed over 2,000 people and found that 63% of them didn’t have a will. When asked why not, they gave three main reasons: we don’t have time to make one (48%), we don’t need one in this stage of life (20%), or we can’t afford one (17%).
Making a will can be emotional; so, it’s easy to see why some people skip it entirely. I didn’t think we needed one at that stage of life, but having it in place was helpful.
The Power of Attorney
A Power of attorney (POA) authorizes an individual to perform different actions on another person’s behalf.
The Financial Durable Power of Attorney allowed me to make financial transactions and sign legal documents when Daniel was no longer able to. This was important as he moved into a memory care facility and with the bank accounts.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allowed me to make medical and other health-related decisions which he could not make for himself. I was able to
choose doctors or other care providers.
decide on living arrangements should you need long-term care (like choosing assisted living, memory care or rehab facilities, and Hospice).
hire caregivers for basic needs like food and bathing.
make decisions regarding medical care, including surgeries, tests, medication,and more.
obtain information on his medical condition.
This brief guide may provide a greater understanding:
It was enormously helpful to have those legal documents in place. Daniel denied having dementia and would have refused to participate.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant).
Typically, Medicare is supplemented with another health plan. I was unclear what Medicare would and wouldn’t pay for. The following video was helpful.
We had health insurance but not long-term care insurance. Fortunatly, we set aside money for emergencies. This money helped pay for Daniel’s stay in memory care - $15,000 a month.
I thought he had no life insurance but found a company life insurance policy taken out years ago. There was a substantial death benefit involved, which could have been lost. So, it’s wise to know what is in place and what you have.
I had no idea how to do the taxes, but Daniel kept a list of required documents and had hired a CPA to do them. So, I followed the list, and the CPA helped me complete the process. This video on taxes may be helpful.
Learning about our financial situation was the biggest hurdle. In retrospect, I “should have” been more involved. With the help of a financial planner, though, the questions have been answered, and I have taken charge.
Friends say their partner/spouse told them, “you don’t need to worry about pin numbers, accounts, and log-in information, it’s my job.” BUT situations change in a minute. You need to be knowledgeable and prepared – that is the voice of experience speaking.
Two issues were involved. One was paying bills online and managing the online accounts. Daniel kept an accurate list of passwords – but some were in his name, some in mine, some I paid for, some he did. It remains a puzzle, but I am sorting it out.
The other was knowing how to fix the computer problems as they arise - and they do.
Had I taken the time to be more involved over the years, I would have been more prepared to take over when necessary and could have saved myself a lot of extra work, stress, and energy.
However, it’s not too late for you to learn from my less than wise decisions. Time and energy spent early on will pay dividends later on and in your goal to age well.