How to Help Your Spouse’s Sanity If You Get Smushed by a Bus

How to Help Your Spouse’s Sanity If You Get Smushed by a Bus

Logistics wise, I am doing a smidge better. Smidge.

I gave up and hired a lawyer, which is something I should have done right from the start. They’re fancy, but I believe they will relieve a lot of stress and help me with my assets – so that’s a good thing. They won’t however, call Verizon for the 3rd time to try and straighten the phone plan out. I thought I had taken care of it last week, but now I have a mystery charge on bill which appears to be for Tim’s phone that I mailed back last week.


(Verizon update #2: Yeah, that went away pretty quickly.)

With that in mind, here are some tidbits I have collected to help your spouse not want to smash their head against a desk and ruin any small shreds of sanity they have left. Also, I will be filling this meme with puppies, because puppies are helpful in these kind of situations.



Get one. You can do it online for less than $100. Having one of these would have made everything in my life much easier right now.


If you have a shared account or family plan, make sure your spouse is listed as a user who’s authorized to make financial changes to the account. If they are, they may be able to cancel your line and do things without many different calls to customer service.


Bank Account

Did you know that at least with my bank (Chase in Texas), your spouse will not automatically get the contents of your checking or savings account if you get smushed by a bus? What I was told by the banker is that any account with contents under $5,000 will go to the spouse but anything more than this amount will require your spouse to hire an estate lawyer to gain control of the assets. Just because you are married, doesn’t automatically mean they get your money… even if they are the sole heir.

You can set up a beneficiary for your checking and/or savings account very easily. I named my brother and it took less than 5 minutes with a banker at the branch.


Secret Debt Won’t Stay a Secret

You may think, “Oh my bunny wunny doesn’t need to know about this credit card so I’ll just pay it off eventually and never tell them.” WRONG. It’s not fun to be hit by expensive surprises when your grieving spouse is already trying to handle 1,000 other things. Ask me how I know.

Tell Your Spouse Where Important Documents Are

Throwing all “important” papers in an Ikea storage box does not count as filing. Even if you aren’t the most organized person in the world, tell your husband/wife where your tax returns, passport, marriage certificate and social security card all live. Instructions can be as vague as “In that pile of papers in the junk drawer,” but give them something. If you need me I don’t think I actually exist right now because I don’t know where my social security card is (or Tim’s) or my passport’s location (or Tim’s).


Write Account Passwords Down in a Safe Location

You know what doesn’t transfer to a spouse after death? Things like Airline miles & reward points. I may or may not have been able to get something out of those accounts, because I happened to know one of his passwords he often used. Most of the others? I’m clueless. So now I have to do things like scan photo IDs and documents (which I can’t find) so he won’t keep showing up as available on gchat to haunt his family and friends. Even simple things like Netflix add up when you’re trying to reorganize your entire life. Do your spouse a favor and just keep things documented for them.


Think About the Animals

Look, I will care for BT for the rest of her life in the best way I possible can. I’ll do that because I love her, she is my dog too and most importantly Tim loved her. I’m not saying your spouse hates your dog/cat/animal, but some spouses do. Put something in writing to protect your animals so that they don’t end up at the shelter. It happens more than you think.


Have a Non-Morbid But Real Conversation About Your Final Wishes

What people want to have done with their remains is a hugely personal issue. Some religions are strict, but many people aren’t religious these days and someone so young rarely picks out a plot for two in the local cemetery. Give your spouse an idea of what you might like, even if it’s scary or heavy to think about. We had talked about this briefly in the past, and I expressed to him what wanted but Tim said he didn’t really care. I think that’s because he had a hard time accepting that death is a part of life in general. Anyway, I guessed and did the best I could with these choices after knowing him as well as I did. Luckily, his family respected my wishes and agreed with whatever I choose… but your situation might not be the same. When you’re grieving and you’re leaning towards X issue but his family is pushing for Y wouldn’t it be nice to know what your beloved would have liked?


There are more things that keep coming up, but I will deal with them as I come. I could take fewer life lessons right now, but hopefully this mountain of poop will feel like it’s smaller soon. My husband had a lot of great qualities, but life organization was not one of them.

If you can think of anything I’ve forgotten (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten things) please add in the comments.

35 thoughts on “How to Help Your Spouse’s Sanity If You Get Smushed by a Bus

  1. I just emailed this post to my husband and requested that we address these things – we’ve casually talked about some of this stuff (what would happen to the horse if I died, views on cremation, etc.) but nothing finalized. This is the kick-in-the-butt we needed to finally sit down and finalize it for real. Seeing all of the crazy paperwork involved in a spouse’s death is hugely eye-opening – thank you for being so open and honest about your experiences and encouraging your readers to get their affairs in order.

  2. highly recommend power of attorney (even if it’s just a bank one), a list of any life insurance or death benefits that may be owed, and there is such a thing as a “living will” which if you’re pretty well smushed by the bus but not dead yet, will give your loved ones a course of action should it be a dire situation that needs decisions. ask me how I know that one 🙁

  3. also i’m really glad to see you hired an estate lawyer – I didn’t realize you hadn’t and it’s just so necessary in this kind of situation. good for you.

  4. For military families, we are given a checklist of things that should be talked about. After 9 years of military marriage and multiple deployments, I’ll add a couple to your list. Make a copy of each of those important documents, wrap it all up in a file box or manilla envelope and leave it with a parent, sibling, etc. Just in case. It is so, so important to have things ironed out when there is nothing wrong for this exact reason. I sat next to a lovely woman when she was told that because her husband failed to file paperwork she and their two kids wouldn’t be getting the normal life insurance benefit offered to surviving military widows. Having this discussion on a annual or so basis is a good way of making sure that you have your Ts crossed and Is dotted.

  5. Some of these were already on my “To Do” list as we get our wedding in place but I’ll be adding the rest! I’m so sorry you are having to go through this but I appreciate you being willing to share your experiences.

  6. Though I wish it were written under better circumstances, this is a very good post that everyone, married or not, should definitely read and think about. You can never be too prepared.

  7. Important stuff to consider with your spouse/loved ones. I’m glad you hired a lawyer – I hope they can help alleviate some of your paperwork stress.

    I’ve seen a few friends struggle with cancelling accounts – especially cell phones (Cell phone companies – get a grip – quit making it so hard on the families!) and getting bank accounts switched over/cancelled, etc. It really bothers me that these companies give the families such a hard time.

  8. Excellent reminder. Husband and I have wills, but they are old. We mostly know where all the accounts and passwords are, but I’d be hard-pressed to put my hands on everything. This is definitely something we’ll be doing in the very near future.

  9. Thank you for sharing all of these details. Makes me realize how much stuff I know the info to but Kyle has no clue. Definitely eye opening

  10. I’m fairly organized, but Jason is oblivious to where the important things are. I thought about this after Dad passed away. Luckily he already had me on his checking account so I could continue the necessary bills. Shutting all the things off is crazy. Thankfully my father didn’t have a Web presence so I got odd easy there. Jason and I would be in trouble if anything were to happen to either of us. I pay all the bills online with passwords he doesn’t know, etc. I don’t worry about the dogs, and the horses all live on our property so at least they wouldn’t be a huge financial burden. I have told him to put them in training with a certain trainer who will sell them to good homes only though.

  11. Thank you for posting this reminder. It’s a conversation that I need to have with my husband and my parents. Hubby and I have talked about out wishes but neither of us has ever put them down on paper. Same goes for my parents, I kinda sorta know what they want but I’m not 100%. That’s not the situation to be in when a decision needs to be made.

  12. I use this organizer:

    I printed it out and filled all the information in. I need to update it now that we’re in the new house, have additional pets, etc. We’re probably going to get wills drawn up when we adjust the house deed after we get married in the fall.

    Seriously unfun stuff to have to think and talk about, but so crucial nonetheless.

  13. This is all excellent advice. My husband is a financial planner, and he has to deal with this all the time. It is really tough. Thankfully, because of his job, we have all this stuff worked out.

    From hearing the horror stories he has at work, I can tell you that if you don’t have ironclad, legally sound estate planning in place it can and will turn into a nightmare. Random relatives will pop up and throw fits over every single detail. The government will try to take everything they can get their hands on. The phone company, credit cards, etc will refuse to acknowledge the change in plans. It’s ridiculous!

  14. Really great advice, thank you for taking the time to share this. And puppies, yes those were the perfect addition.

  15. My husband is a Geologist and is in the field basically every summer for 2-3 months, so I’ve learned the hard way over the years what I need to know in his absence.
    Your recommendations are spot-on. One addition is to know your way around your house, especially the guts. I believe I am pretty well informed but still spent 10min with the internet guy in my basement rafters looking for “the splitter.”

  16. This is a great post. My husband and I have talked about needed to do some of these things, but have not yet. Thank so much for sharing your experience with us once again.

  17. Great post- Johnny is constantly telling me things like “I’m putting the marriage certificate in this file, okay?” and I just say “Mmm hmm” and carry on with whatever I was doing. When I get back from this show, I am going to make him show me where everything is again!

  18. This is a great post and reminder. Several years ago when hubby and I went on a cruise, we made a list of horses and who got each of them- phone numbers, email addy’s and basic contact info for each. Second in line if the first person couldn’t take them, etc.

    Fast forward to now. Hubby is gone (THANKFULLY!) via divorce and something needs to be put in place for the kids, otherwise he could end up with custody (Scary!!) or they are turned over to the state. Most of the horses were shipped off right after his arrest and while still community property, but the three that remain? Yeah, I need to do something for and about them. It sucks to think where they may end up if I’m gone too. My family doesn’t care or want them so it’s all on me.

    Thank you for the post Lauren!

  19. I am amazed at how you are doing – blogging and sharing with us such practical information. I am not married but I have children and so these are things “I” need to know to make something like this easier for them. People should take heed married or not because no matter what, someone will have to deal with the fallout and possible ‘mess’ we leave behind. Continued hugs and prayers to you. 🙂

  20. I’m new to the equine blogging thing and have only been reading for a few weeks, but for what it’s worth, your mental strength really inspires me. Please accept this stranger’s well wishes for you!

  21. Im not yet married, but this was very insightful. And as an insurance agent I can tell you how insanely important it is to have your spouse legally added to your account! Medical information is extremely guarded by HIPAA and accounts can’t be halted easily without that legal bull dealt with. Same goes for children over 18 or guardians with children!

  22. sorry you had to learn some of these lessons the hard way – but thank you for sharing the advice with us! also i hope the lawyer eases many of your headaches. (and unrelated – your blog looks really REALLY good too, i love the updates!)

  23. And THANK YOU for this post. People give me “The Look” when I say I need to make an appointment to draw up a will, as if it’s some horrible, morbid thing. But it is SO important, even if you are not married or do not own property. Too often, people fearing their own death or assuming “I don’t need to do that until I’m old” are trapped into the feeling that making a will somehow brings them closer to the end, when instead it protects those they love & is indeed a gift, even if it’s not a “fun” one.

    I want to be sure there is a detailed plan in place so my animals are safe, particularly the horses, all financial assets are as they should be, & there is no uncertainty if I am “not quite dead, but nearly dead.” Or even if I am dead.

    EVERYONE should have one in place as soon as feasible, at the very least a Power of Attorney (which you can even get specifically for the care of animals; I believe you can find a downloadable version that you can simply customize & have notarized on USRider’s website). Make sure you designate a Benefactor on either your own or employer-provided insurance (usually in the pleasantly named “Death & Dismemberment” section :/) & UPDATE IT IMMEDIATELY if relationships, names, or situations change!

  24. Again, so sorry you’re going through this. I did some pro-bono work for a woman who’s husband had died intestate and it was a mess. As always, impressed with your sense of humor. Life is too short for anything else, I think.

  25. I would add to the list to at least consider life insurance. Before we were in kid-making mode, husband and I both had enough life insurance to cover all of our debts, based on the idea that if something happened, we didn’t want to leave the other struggling financially. Now that we have a little one on the way, our life insurance has been stepped up significantly, but it’s still just so we don’t leave the other in a mess if something happens. Our financial advisor told us that when he meets widows/widowers the number one thing they say is “we didn’t have enough life insurance.”

    Also, to add to your point about wills – what you said about buying one online is usually wrong. The will packages that are sold through sights like Legalzoom are typically not recognized in the state of Texas as they are usually missing required elements, like witnesses. However, there is an easy way to make one for free – create a holographic will, which means it’s entirely hand written and signed by the creator. Or visit an attorney and have one put together, it’s worth it. Check out this link for a quick overview of the requirements in Texas.

    And I wish that more articles on sad subjects had a ton of puppies.

  26. This is a great list, it’s sad that you know all of this but I need to do a few of these things. I will put them on that far away to do list but hopefully tackle some of these things in the next few months.

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