A Checklist????

Oh my word.  Dealing with everything since Kramer passed away has been a bit of a battle.  I keep thinking I have things done and then it’s something else.  Seriously, I wish someone had put together a checklist of “to do’s” when your spouse dies.

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Here’s an example of a few of the things that have been dragging me down:
I found Kramer’s wallet.  I started going through it.  UGH.  Do these cards need to be cancelled.  Um, I suppose.  So I started the process of calling the bank…Yep, his debit card was cancelled already.  I didn’t need to worry about that.  The gas card account was in his name and my name.  We couldn’t just drop him off the account.  We had to cancel that whole account and we had to start one in my name only.  I have no idea why we couldn’t just have been dropped Kramer from the account.  There was another cards that were that way.  There was so much time on the phone.

Then three weeks later I got a call from the hospital.  We have a big enough bill there that I have to make payments on it.  Between my cancer testing and Kramer’s cancer treatments we couldn’t pay all of it off immediately…so payments it is.  Well I got a call from the hospital:  “Your June payment has been denied by the bank.”  WHAT??!!  Seriously, there is WAY more money in the account than the payment.  This doesn’t make sense.  Then she started rattling off the last four numbers of the Mastercard.  UGH.  That was Kramer’s Mastercard.  Hmm.  I wonder what other payments were coming off of our joint account but were registered to his debit card.  So we had to set up new billing to my card.

The cell phone company was awesome.  Kramer’s phone was on the payment plan.  They didn’t make me finish paying for the phone and we were allowed to keep it.

Our investments were a mess.  Most were in his name as he’d turn 59 1/2 before I would so they had to be moved to my name.  That was signatures and paperwork.  Some could just transfer, others needed have a whole new account made.

Life insurance.  UGH.  I thought that was supposed to be easy.  No.  Beneficiaries all needed to be changed as I owned all of the policies on the kids now.  Then Kalissa wanted to cash her’s in so that was another batch of paperwork.  One person said I needed to sign something the other said I didn’t.  I was told they couldn’t possibly have things ready for when I wanted them and then I went to the office for something else and the paperwork was there.  They finally paid out.  I was about in tears more than once.  I don’t recommend the local office of Northwestern Mutual Life.  If I could I would pull my stuff from there as I’ve gotten conflicting information so many times but I can’t so I guess next time, it will be the kids that have to deal with them.

Getting signed up for Marketplace Health Insurance was a mess.  It’s all based on predicting of income.  How do I predict my income?   Obviously I’ll have less tax write offs as I can’t spend as much money with only my income coming in.  Kramer’s boss offered to pay for July insurance but if I did that then I couldn’t get a tax credit for the health insurance.  I was told I had to file before this day but then I missed the day and it was all okay.  Then I needed a form for this and it needed to be sent.  You can imagine my fear of thinking that for even a day I would be without insurance.  I can’t do that at all!!  I finally have all of that in place.  Sigh of relief.

The bank was a juggle of decisions.  Everyone at the bank was AMAZING.  Of all the places I worked with by far the bank was the best.  Kramer had some retirement…some could be cashed in…one could be rolled to mine…this had penalties…this didn’t…what about this?  What about that?  Did I want my house payment to be less..that could be juggled.  Much of it was all contingent on what the gal who does our taxes suggested.  We had to make sure I didn’t make too much money so I would qualify for Obamacare.  It was a lot of decisions to make but the gals were great.  I highly recommend Bank Iowa if you’re an Iowan.

The headstone for the cemetery….after a bunch of back and forth emails to get the design and lettering in place, we were told they would try to get it in place this summer.  UGH.  I had no idea that would take so long.  I ended up telling them that we were planning on doing something for Kramer’s birthday at the end of September and could it please be done by then…so fingers crossed that it doesn’t take forever.

The casket place called.  Was I happy with the casket?  We had a locally made one.  It’s made by monks from the Dubuque area.  I didn’t know how to answer that…I’ve never put the two words, casket and happy, in one sentence before.  Yes…I guess I was happy with it…but then I asked for a bill.  It’s been over and month and no bill.  The funeral home was slow to send a bill as well.  I stopped in to the funeral home a week after Kramer passed and asked for a bill.  They looked at me really strangely.  For me and my perspective, I want these bills paid.  I want the checks cleared.  I want to know there are no surprise bills and the financial part of my life can move on.  I think they all think it will “lessen the blow” to wait a “respectable time” before sending bills.  UGH.

Hospice…what will they take back?  What can we donate elsewhere.  We had a lot of feeding tube formula left (that I had to pay for and insurance didn’t cover)…can’t that go to someone?  I hate to throw it away.  Well the cases can be donated.  The individual cartons can’t.

So many things were a “hurry up and wait” sort of process.  Hurry and meet with the tax lady so I can get the health insurance for me together.  Now wait for an insurance card.  Hurry and sign this paper….now wait for them to process…and sign another paper and sign another then wait for them to process.  On top of it all, so many of the offices are open only during hours I am working.  AHHH!!!!!!!!!!

It’s hard…I would just like all of this decision making and paperwork to be done and finished.  I feel like all of this wrapping up the finances and paperwork is hard, annoying and painful.  I just hate it.  I want to focus on the happy part of my life with Kramer.  I feel like all of these things are SO SLOW and a dead weight but most importantly they keep me from the good happy memories of Kramer.

Seriously someone needs to come up with a checklist….but as I’ve been told, each death is a little bit different depending on what a person had for health insurance, life insurance and everything else.  I know it sounds whiney.  Sorry…It’s the state I’m in.  Take away this paperwork crap, then I think I’d be doing pretty good.


33 thoughts on “A Checklist????”

  1. I actually went to HS with a woman, Terri Terebinski, in Ohio. At our 25th reunion she told us she was in the funeral business – her family had been for years. Her plan was to hold “classes” just like this to help people after a death. She said a lot of spouses – both sexes – were completely in the dark. I don’t know how her plans went as I now live in MA and our 50th reunion is next year.

  2. Oh boy. I would have NO idea where to start. . .but now, I am going to make a list based on this blog post and start figuring out what to do. Again, thank you for sharing so openly and honestly about your experience, as you are helping those of us who have not walked this road, yet. Sending love and prayers and hope that things get situated quickly, so you can focus on the happy and the good and the healing.

  3. It is a maze to go through. My sister passed away in November. We didn’t even know where all her money was at and which accounts had beneficiaries. Good luck to you.

  4. Oh, Jo, I feel your pain and anxiety. My Mom is much older than you and has some memory problems. My stepdad died in April. I’ve been trying to get her through this maze and she had some of this issues you mentioned, but being we live in a different state, our experience has been different but equally frustrating. She had to pay for his funeral upfront during the planning process. Of course this was weeks before she would receive the proceeds of his insurance. Thankfully she had the money to cover it. The DMV was one of the worst places we had to deal with and we sadly had to trash hundreds of dollars worth of meds and COPD supplies. I ran from free clinics to nursing homes to private care places and everyone refused the brand new, unopened items because it’s against the law and Medicare rules here for them to accept such items. It was heartbreaking and disgusting to pitch the stuff. We even tried offering it free online and at our yard sale but got no takers. We’re still dealing with a few things and I agree, a checklist would be nice. I’ve been making my own but I don’t know if I’ll ever get everything checked off. Oh, the frustration!

  5. Thank you for being so honest about the struggle this part of Kramer’s death has been fo you. I wish there were some way to wave a magic wand and make all those decisions and paper work go away. I’m sorry this has been such a challenge for you but you will get through this. I don’t feel that you are whining and I’m very glad you felt you could be straightforward with your fans about what this whole process has been. Cry when you need to and whine if you feel like it. We will be here for you.

  6. I am surprised that the funeral home did not provide you with some sort of check list. My Mother’s funeral home provided a great little booklet with lots of information and reminders.

    I was fortunate in that my Mom had named beneficiaries on all of her investments and bank accounts so all I had to do was notify the “powers that be” (bank, investment people, etc.)
    When she passed away she had been in a nursing home for about a year so her assets were limited.

    When I went to file probate on her will, there was nothing to do except go to the front desk and pay $2.00 to file the will!

  7. Maxine Corimski

    I know it’s an expense that you probably don’t need know. But a good attorney could get all of that together for you and someone from his office (probably a paralegal) could handle the running around. But, I believe, it would be worth the fee and take away all your stress.
    God bless you and your lovely family, Jo.

  8. Oh my gosh these kinds of things can be really frustrating. Paper work is the pits, but necessary I guess. To bad there isn’t some one to help you through this without so much frustration. Things were going good for you, just another bump in the road, go sit in your sewing room and try and have some happy time. I’m glad you covered so many thing you had to do so well. Hands up to you.” HIGH FIVE JO”

  9. linda schiffer

    You have my complete sympathy! I still have a spouse but three years ago my Mom died (and I, as oldest, was named her executor) and then several months later one of my brothers died (ditto). So much paperwork, so many steps … complicated by the fact that they both lived in Ohio and I live in MD. Sigh. Checklists would be useful, eh?

    :) Linda

  10. Louverna Tomer

    Jo, I’m sorry you are going thru this. Please slow down and take one day at a time. My husband passed with cancer and my mother 10 months after that. I had both of them to deal with. Unfortunately, everyone and everything doesn’t operate on OUR time. It is a process and we are caught up in it, like it or not. There are laws, rules and regulations to follow. I know you don’t want to hear this – but the survivor is a number in the system. We lost our loved one and that’s No. 1 in our mind, but we are a number in the system along with everyone else. I think they care about us and sorry for our loss, but we have to take our turn.
    I think your mind is on overload and want things to become normal. (Each person that has lost a loved one cannot ‘go back’ to normal.) We now have a new normal. My faith is very strong and I talk to my Lord with my problems and HE hasn’t failed me yet. It’s everyday. (Not telling you what to do, this is just how I live my daily life.) He doesn’t give me what I WANT, but what I NEED, one day at a time.
    Speaking of funeral home bills – the funeral director came to me at my husband’s viewing and wanted to ‘discuss the funeral the following day’. We went to a room and he presented me with a bill and I had two weeks to pay. So see, we are not Special – we are a customer.
    Keeping you in my prayers,

  11. Lori Sparks Douglas

    Hug a grandkid. Say a pray to ask for God’s help. You said you need to be brave. You are braver and stronger than you think. Focus on what you can do … sometimes life is not in nice little packages that you can be done with. You will get through it! Take care of yourself. Sometimes McDonalds coffee breaks help you get through a different type of grief you didn’t know you would have to go through. Take care my friend!

  12. I had a bit help when my husband passed as my dad died 6 mos earlier so I was familiar with what needed to be done. The crematorium and funeral home were both paid as soon as services were provided. Worst part was the 2 small accounts only in his name totaling $1600. Had to pay $231 to have a Judge say his burial bills were paid before he released the money. Took 6 months to get access to money that could have paid my taxes. I feel your aggravation Jo.

  13. Sally - DenimQuilts

    I feel your pain – in the middle of this myself with my mom. Luckily she had a trust; even at that there are hurdles everywhere! The other “lucky” part, I guess, is that I have an administrative brain and from the start set up a filing system with everything in their own files/folders and then all active issues in an accordion file that I can carry in a tote bag. When I go to the appointments or make calls, it’s at my fingertips. Trick of the trade: keep notes on every conversation: date/time/name of person spoke with. Ask for direct ph. #s of anyone who gives you answers/instructions etc. so that you can avoid starting all over if you get stuck. If you stay organized and are systematic you can deal with it even when your brain is in a fog. I had to hire an attorney to set up a document that is a new requirement – she was going thru stuff “she” would need to do with me (for $ of course) – I kept pulling out those things myself. Finally she understood that I had done most myself and resigned to creating the document I told her I needed (just that) in the 1st place. If you don’t think this way, who do you know who can (volunteer) help get a system in place?

  14. Cindy Deatsman

    If you google “check list for widows” you will find something like what you’re looking for. If there’s a grief support group in your area or thru the hospital, they will quite likely have practical information as well as emotional support.

  15. Oh, Jo! I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all of this and I hope you’re about to get it all sorted out. When my Dad died, he had left 6 pages of typed instructions for my mom and me. He’d been making the list for probably 20 years and every 6 months or so, he would update it. It was THE most thoughtful and most helpful gift ever! Every item listed exactly who to call, where to call, what to ask, where every account was located and every change to be made. He’s been gone almost 10 years now, but I still thank him for that gift. It made a horrible time easier. It sounds like you’re making good progress wading through the muck. Praying you’ll get through it soon and be able to move on to things that bring you joy.

  16. Jo-
    First let me add my condolences on your husband’s passing. I cried reading so many of the posts as things worsened.
    My husband is a monument dealer. The only reasons the headstone should take 3 months to letter, etch and install this time of year would be if you wanted a special size, shape or type of granite that had to be ordered or if the monument people were very far behind. The busiest times of the year for monument dealers are May (everybody wants their stone in place by Memorial Day) and the Holidays.

    To Louverna – I’m sorry you had to deal with such a callous funeral director. Most have more tact than that.

    To Bobi, and to others in the same situation – some funeral homes will wait until the insurance comes in to pay the bill. Just have to shop around to find one that will do that.

  17. Paperwork is the pits. I’ve been hoping you would have a smooth road financially. I was hoping you had mortgage insurance to pay off the house in case of the death of the main breadwinner (Do they even do that?) and that Kramer had life insurance to help you get through the next few years along with your own income. Then you named some things I never even thought of. Look on the bright side, the worst of it is probably over and then you will know what is what.

  18. There is a book called Widow to Widow by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S. It is a very practical book that a friend of mine, who had lost her husband sent to me when my husband died. It covers all the things you mentioned and much more. It came from Amazon. It is the worse time for all of these issues but… Make lists each morning to organize your thoughts on what needs to be done that day but try to do something that rests you as well. I am glad the bank is helpful. Mine was as well.

  19. Judith Fairchild

    Oh dear! The miles of paperwork just to get things cleared up so you know what you have and what has to be done. The other writers mentioned to things. The book widow to widow is excellent. Something similar was given to my mother-in-law when my dad- in- law passed. It had a check list. Mil was the family” banker” so she knew what waswhat financially but getting the paperwork done was a royal pain. She had a good lawyer helping her also but still was stuck with hurry sign this and this send it immediately then wait and wait for stuff to get finished. Praying continues when frustrated look up and tell Jesus “help please” He does and the frustration just lessens. Hang on tight to Jesus.

  20. It is hard enough to loose a person to cancer and then to have to deal with all the paper work to just carry on with life. A check list would be a great thing to have and I am so glad some one mentioned the “Widow to Widow” book; I think I will order one. Our family lost father, brother, and mother in 4 years which created an “issue’ with a sibling dying before one of the parents. Some of Mom’s assets were inheritable by our brother’s heirs; some were not. Who would think to check details like that. Our parents were original stockholders in the local electric company, the company wanted us to donate the shares back to them. The retirement fund had a small life insurance policy for her; they paid my sister ,the executor, right away. It took multiple phone calls and forms filled out for the other 3 of us to get paid and I belonged to the same retirement fund. And the number of death certificates we had to pay for. Some places required copies of all 3 to pay out. It really is a 2 person job, my sister was executor and I was second after her so we both worked on it. I am several years older and knew details of policies and stocks that my sister didn’t. Communication is really key and a minimum of 2 people should know your basic financial and insurance info or have easy access to getting it.

  21. My father died without leaving any – ANY information as to where his bank accounts were, what investments he’d made, etc. He and Mom had put together a binder that had spaces for all of that, but when they showed it to me and my brother (the executors) we both commented that there were no names or accounts listed. He looked at us and gave a chuckle, never did anything about that problem.
    Two years after he died, my sister got a letter from a bank asking what to do with a cd. Lucky she was living in our parents’ home at the time! It was addressed to both of my parents, although my mother died 11 years before my father. At least we knew he had a burial plot with Mom. When she died, he had to buy one. It took nearly a year before the headstone was put in place. I sympathize with you, Jo!

  22. I’m sorry that you are having to go through all of this, but I’m glad that you wrote about it. I hope that your readers start asking questions of their bank and tax people about what and how they should handle things in case of spouse’s death or their own. Just this past month, I asked the bank teller how I could arrange for someone to handle my savings/other banking procedures in case of my death. She helped me fill out paperwork and it was at no cost. Thank you for telling us how it is. You don’t realize how many people you are helping to be better prepared.

  23. Donna Pheneger

    Oh Jo – I’m so sorry to hear this. I don’t know of anyone who lost a spouse who had an “easy time of it” when dealing with paperwork. Why on earth would they make it so hard at such a time as this? And it all has to be done “now” – in their time. :-(
    I know things take time but still…So many times a person is just another account.
    Praying that the rest of the time things go easier for you with all of this.
    Love and prayers

  24. TG that you found the Marketplace. I had wanted to suggest it but was afraid of the pushback the program generates. You are exactly who Obamacare was created to help. Working people who do not have access to employer sponsored insurance!!! But there is SO MUCH politics around the program I have to wonder if anyone who didn’t need the coverage has really THOUGHT about what the program does BEFORE they formed an opinion :( It is there for their hairdresser and child care provider and other independent operators, and neighbors.

  25. gayle r tucker

    Jo, why don’t you put the To-Do list together and send it to a senior magazine for publication. Things that can be done ahead of the death, forms to send for, how many death certificates, etc. There would be many who would appreciate your efforts. Interview banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, anything you can think of.
    You would be doing a lot of people a favor.

  26. I’m so sorry Jo. You’ve got this and please remember one foot then the other.
    Deal with the most urgent and the rest can wait.
    Also , just a warning…. prepare yourself for a couple of years down the road when you’ll answer a phone call and it’s for Kramer to resign up for a benefit or something else. That has happened to many I know and you are always taken aback and wonder with amazement.

  27. Jo, there is a checklist. When my dad died in 2014, the funeral home gave me a binder with lots of info. There was a checklist for the things you are dealing with. Also a checklist where you could record names and addresses of people who sent flowers and check off when you sent the thank-you cards. It was all very helpful, but it was still a lot of work getting financial things transferred. I don’t like any kind of paperwork so I definitely feel your pain. Best of luck to you!

  28. SusanfromKentucky

    I went through a lot of this when my husband died two years ago. Thankfully, most of it is now taken care of. I will have to find new insurance by next May (I’ve been on a Cobra-plan for his insurance). At the moment, I am taking care of my mom’s stuff (she died in May). I have people at her house, at the moment, who are pricing all of her stuff for an Estate/Yard sale. Then I have to sell the house, which may be an auction. It’s all a headache.

  29. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all the hassles at this time. My father passed away 2 years ago and my mother 2 months ago and my sisters and I worked together to get everything done. I can’t imagine having to do it all alone and we were fortunate that my parents had everything in order. Many years ago I recall seeing a program where a woman discussed the death of her husband and all the things she had to deal with in regards to his death. She put together a book called “Answers” that would be helpful for those you leave behind. It doesn’t help you right now but would be helpful for your children. It has categories for bank accounts, investments, mortgage, etc. You put in all your information and tell your children where you keep the book. I bought one for our oldest son who will be our executor and doesn’t live near us and would have no idea of our assets and debts. I need to update it but it would be a starting point for him.

  30. There is a wonderful book that just came out titled “The Beginner’s Guide to the End”..by Dr BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger…they were on Wisconsin Public Radio (or NPR) just this last week (Podcast available at the website)…they were wonderful to listen to…Cover many of the things you have had to deal with and more…I have it bookmarked at Amazon so that I can purchase it someday for myself…it is also available through my local public library…

  31. Ironically Jo, this is the case when anyone dies whether spouse, parent, adult child or close friend. My Mom died fifteen years ago and I went through some of the same stuff. Ironically, about five years before she passed she had set up a pre-plan for my grandmother’s passing (who was in a nursing home at the time) and had shared the information with me so I would be aware of what arrangemens had been made and how much had already been paid towards it. At the time I thought “why do I need to know this?!?” but thank goodness she had because when my Mom very unexpectedly passed, I already knew exactly what had to be done as far as funeral arrangements were concerned and approximately what were all the related costs. Then I had to deal with my grandmother’s passing one year later! However, all the closing of accounts, settling up bills and final tax returns I had to learn about dealing with myself. My advantage there was that I had been a bookeeper for years so was used to dealing with financial paperwork and the tangled bureacracies that manage them.

    My suggestion to you is that as you clean up your husband’s stuff, begin placing your own reorganized paperwork and information in a binder, preferably with notes (or even better start drafting a detailed will) and share it with at least two of your kids so should (heaven forbid) something happen to you, they will not have to deal with the same learning curve during their bereavement.

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