Dear Mr. Miller:
I’m all alone now. My husband of 39 years passed a few months ago. Thank goodness for my kids who have been helping me through this very difficult time. My husband handled all of the finances, investments, and insurance matters. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid; actually I’m a college graduate. I just never handled this stuff–he did.
Here’s the problem. The house central air conditioning just went on the fritz. Worse, all the water it sucked out of the air (so they tell me) overflowed all over the floor. It’s located upstairs so it seeped through the wall and into the bedroom below. It’s a mess. My daughter told me it might be covered by my homeowners insurance. I have no idea who my agent is or where the policy is located. What do I do?
In a Panic!
Determining Your Insurance Companies: The immediate problem (the insurance) is probably going to be easy to fix. Check the drawers and places where financial records might be kept. Is there a file cabinet–that is a likely candidate. Take a look at the check register or online banking records for the last year. If you see an insurance company named, that is a likely candidate. What about charge card statements for the last year–same thing. Or your husband’s phone book or iPhone/Android contact app. See what you can find in there. One of these methods should get you to pay dirt.
Daily Money Manager: But let’s also talk about longer term. Finance, investments, and insurance matters are easy–if you’ve done it enough and you have the right advisors to work with. Otherwise, there is a steep and sometimes expensive (due to mistakes) learning curve. When we speak of advisors, we usually think in terms of investment advisors and insurance agents. But there is another advisor that often gets ignored and would be perfect for your situation. A Daily Money Manger.
Daily Money Managers help keep you organized. Here’s the description from the American Association of Daily Money Managers: ” Daily money managers offer services to ensure nothing falls through the cracks including necessities like paying monthly bills, assisting with tax records, balancing checkbooks, decoding medical bills, and negotiating with creditors. Other services may include notary services, payroll management, healthcare advocacy or acting in another fiduciary capacity.” https://secure.aadmm.com/
Advisors You Should Have: The ones that I have spoken with will help get all of your records together–that will include insurance policies. They will help you pay bills in a timely manner. They can be essential for someone who has no experience with these issues. Along with your attorney (you retained one when your husband passed, right?), investment advisor, insurance agent, and your CPA, things will get on an even keel much, much quicker than without. And you won’t get worked to death trying to get up to speed immediately. You may want to look at this article I wrote a while ago on the subject.
There is also a book that I offer to my surviving spouses who find themselves in this situation. It is The Money Queen’s Guide Although written from a woman’s perspective, it would be helpful for surviving husbands who were not the financial lead in the couple, also.