12 Thoughts About Death and Finances

12 Thoughts About Death and Finance

12 Thoughts About Death and Finance | brokeGIRLrich

Death has been on my mind a lot lately. My grandma passed away two weeks ago after a seven year battle with cancer. For a lot of that time, it seemed like she might beat it and there was even a four year respite there when she was in remission.

Weirdly enough, thoughts about money managed to anchor me during really bad times. I’m actually a super practical person by nature and I’m not so good with the emotional side of things. My mom calls me Sheldon.

Some things about death and finance I’ve learned/thought about over the last few weeks:

  1. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the best gift to bring people who are in the middle of a family crisis is healthy food. The number of boxes of donuts people brought us was just ridiculous. If I never see Dunkin Donuts again, that would be ok with me.
  2. It takes actual training to be a caregiver. If your family member wants to die at home, no matter how much they don’t want to talk about things, you need to make a real plan about who will assist the family. My mom was my grandmother’s primary caregiver and I came home as often as possible to help her as much as I could, but, quite honestly, neither of us had a clue what we were doing and my grandmother was adamant she didn’t want outside help. I don’t think she had a clue what she did to both of us by making us promise that.
  3. Long term care insurance is an excellent idea. I cannot think of a better gift my parents could ever give me than investing in that for themselves.
  4. Despite rave reviews from everyone we knew about how excellent hospice is to work with, our experience was absolutely horrific. The hospice system is split into a few different aspects – a nurse, a social worker and home health aides. Our nurse was fantastic, but she would generally check in about once a week. The primary care from hospice comes from the home health aides they set you up with and all of ours were a nightmare until the very last day.
  5. Having enough retirement money saved up to not have to worry about expenses is an incredible blessing.
  6. If you get sick, make sure all of your power of attorney needs are straightened out early on. FYI – power of attorney expires at time of death. So if you think you’re going to use mom’s bank account to cover expenses after she dies, since you’ve got power of attorney, you are not. Either take out the money in advance or be prepared to pay out of pocket and wait for any inheritance to clear.
  7. Make sure you have a will! Interestingly enough, if you are the executor, you are entitled to an executor’s fee that comes out of the estate. We had no idea. It is also not required that you take it.
  8. If you do not have a detailed will and your children are on good terms, still make sure that there is a list, in an easily accessible place of who should get what with any expensive items you own such as jewelry, collectibles, etc. Everyone reacts very different over the loss of a loved one, and it’s better that everyone know your wishes instead of emotional fighting over who gets Mom’s wedding ring or something horrific like that (fortunately, that did not happen to us).
  9. For the love of all that’s good, please keep any financial accounts and information that needs to be dealt with at the time of your death up to date (as best you can, understandably, the last few months might not be in order) and organized. I loved my grandma, but apparently she was a horrible organizer. Everything was just crammed in a few different envelopes with little pieces of paper she’d made notes on, that had often come lose and she kept the weirdest collection of things… like my grandfather, who died 10 year’s ago, old gas card – and several statements that went with it. So mixed in with vital information, we had to sort through credit card statements, stock information from 2012, her 2009 taxes… sigh. Binders are your friend people. Actually, they’re your next of kin’s friend. And if you’re young and think you don’t have much that would have to be taken care of in the event of your death, now is the time to start that binder, before it gets too complicated!
  10. When trying to sort out wills and inheritance, the first step is to order death certificates from the funeral director. Once you have one, you can take the will to the county surrogate (which is a type of lawyer). They collect all the necessary information from you then the will is approved in the Surrogate’s Court. You don’t have to attend that court, and I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the country, but it’s worth noting that in NJ, the court meets once a month. So you will not receive any inheritance until after that date. I mention that for practical reasons because of my next point.
  11. Funerals are incredibly, incredibly expensive. We had a very normal funeral for my grandmother, with nothing super extravagant, and those two days came out to close to $15,000. $15,000. I just don’t understand. And her plot was already paid for. So that number isn’t even included in that.
  12. Personally, I have been interested in green funerals for years. I just like everything about them so much better on an environmental and mental level. After seeing the price tag for my grandmother’s, I’m now very interested on a financial level as well.

I’m well aware that part of my keen interest in the mechanics of death finance is that as the oldest in my family, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my job to sort all this crap out when my parents go. Besides being the oldest, my brother is also very much not a Sheldon… so I don’t think we’ll want him making any sort of decisions when those awful moments occur.

But let’s finish this on a positive note. I’ve never seen two people live such a fairy tale romance as my grandma and grandpa and it’s definitely a comfort to think of them happy together somewhere now. Look how incredibly gorgeous my grandmother was:

My Gorgeous Grandmother


*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and Debt Discipline*

27 thoughts on “12 Thoughts About Death and Finances

  1. I’m sorry for your loss Mel. It’s never easy to loose someone you love. You have a lot of good advice here though, especially about having medical power of attorney and other paperwork straightened out in advance. My wife was a Hospice Chaplain until our son was born, and she saw far too many families struggle with end of life decisions. It’s always tough, but if some of that paperwork (power of attorney, DNR, health care surrogate, etc) are straightened out in advance…..life is far less stressful for the survivors. I’m sorry your hospice experience was so bad. Mine was distinctly subpar as well.
    Income Surfer recently posted…New “Cigar Butt” Stock PurchaseMy Profile

  2. This is a really great post! Tons of information packed in here. My parents have long-term care insurance that never runs out – so that’s awesome. We were just talking about that yesterday.

    I’m interested in these ‘green’ funerals you speak of. Will you be posting more about them in the future or should I hit up the Google machine?

    When I was in Arlington Nat’l Cemetery 6 years ago, what still sticks in my head today is a man’s headstone that was literally just a stone. He didn’t want a big show at his grave site. He didn’t want to keep up with the Joneses.

    He simply said, ‘When I die, go to my farm and pickup the biggest rock you can find and lay it at my grave.’
    Will recently posted…Become Frugal with 1 Trick: Part 2 (Think about Death)My Profile

    • You can totally google it, but I plan to write about it. I actually want to contact the company and talk with them thought to get some clarification on some aspects.

      I love the quote from the guy at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery!

    • I know, I couldn’t believe it when we watched the numbers add up at the funeral home. I can’t imagine how stressful that must be if you don’t have the funds to cover it. I really, really wanted to interview the funeral director on what his overhead is – like, is there some ridiculous insurance premium you’re paying?? WHY is this number so high?? I feel like they’re preying on people who are not making clear decisions.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss, Mel. That picture of your grandma is beautiful, thank you for sharing it with us. Death came up a few times over the weekend, what with my grandma’s health being in question, and my parents getting older. They told me they didn’t have a will, but thankfully my mom is making it a priority to get that taken care of. It’s never fun to think about, but it is better to plan ahead for it.
    E.M. recently posted…Given the Chance, What’s One Thing You Would Buy?My Profile

    • I’m so glad my parents have their will and everything in order. I know it shouldn’t be a whole lot of my business, but it’s still a relief to me that they’re leaving behind an instruction manual of what the heck to do when it’s just my brother and me someday… no matter how old we are when it happens. Hopefully very, very old.

  4. I’m so sorry about your grandmother, and so sorry to hear about the hospice care. I hope that you can let someone in charge know how awful they were. I mean that’s the last think people need in that situation is terrible people. There is so much more than people realize, especially when it comes to things like children, money, property, etc when it comes to death. No one really likes to deal with it, but it’s going to happen to all of us at some point, so I’d rather not burden loved ones if I don’t have to. Again, so sorry about your loss..
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Carefree Summer DaysMy Profile

  5. My sincere condolences, Mel. Happy that she is with your Grandpa and in a better place. :-D

    My Mum was primary caregiver for my Aunt who also had cancer and died at home. I think she was pretty happy with the hospice care, some were better than others. Mind you this was 15 years ago now.

    This was a great post of things that need to be considered and thought about. Thanks for working through your grief by helping others.
    debt debs recently posted…Father’s Frugal FinancesMy Profile

  6. My sister in law recently past away unexpectedly, the entire process has been very difficult; obviously the emotional side and taking car of her children, but also the administrative side, including final expenses, taxes, etc. Everyone should have a detailed up to date will and make sure that it is public to family members who are involved, as well as named beneficiaries on other accounts. This is a great write up. Long Term Care insurance is something that is often overlooked that more people need to get. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, I’m sorry for the loss of your grandmother and for how difficult the last chapter of her life was for her and her family.
    John C @ Action Economics recently posted…Financial Lessons From My DadMy Profile

  7. It’s sad to me that I had similar thoughts when one of my best friends (my father in law) passed away. When I interviewed Adam Baker once he mentioned that people don’t die when they think they will: in the end. We mostly die in the middle with to-do lists and incomplete tasks. He told stories about how people were asking about how the cat was going to get fed after they died. Really? The cat?
    AverageJoe recently posted…Happiness is a State of MindMy Profile

  8. I am sorry about your loss, Mel, but you have brought up a number of really helpful things to remember about death and finances. And as much as most of us don’t want to think about death or our loved ones dying, it is inevitable for all of us and the better prepared we are financially, the less stress we put on our family. I am a HUGE proponent of anyone over 50 getting long term care insurance. It is crazy how much it costs and how much damage it can do financially should you need it.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…The Daily InterviewMy Profile

  9. I’m really sorry to hear about your Grandma. When I worked in public accounting I worked on taxes for a few clients who had passed away. We were responsible for making sure that the taxes were properly addressed for their trusts. It was really interesting. My big takeaway was that it is really important to be organized and prepared for these events. It definitely makes it much easier on your family members if they don’t have to worry as much about the finances.
    Liz recently posted…Ten Ways to Get Noticed at WorkMy Profile

  10. What great practical advice. It’s true–we don’t think about needing to have things all laid out for our family in case of death. It’s so important. Thanks for sharing and linking up to What You Wish Wednesday. Please come back on Wednesday!

  11. I know this comment is late but I am sorry for the loss of your grandmother. This is such a well-written article. And is one of the few places to actually list a flat number for a funeral. I’ll provide a comparison for you. In WY, our cremation cost a little over $3K. I’m not sure how that varies by state. But it was much less than I expected.
    Leslie Beslie recently posted…July Spending & August Goals 2014My Profile

  12. Pingback: In the world of Save. Spend. Splurge. | Save. Spend. Splurge.

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