It was 4 years ago that my husband and I heard about the sudden death of an old friend. Scott had been sick, pneumonia, but instead of getting better he didn’t make it. His wife Maria was devastated. They’d only been married a few years, had just been able to buy a condo. I remember seeing Maria at the wake. She was pretty numb, but thank goodness there were lots of friends around to help her.
I kept in touch with Maria via Facebook, and occasionally managed to see her in person at gatherings of friends. She got less sad and numb, but the death of her beloved husband was only the beginning of a problem I can’t even imagine having to go through.
The condo her husband had purchased was in his name only. The money that should have gone to her after Scott’s death went to his family instead because he hadn’t changed beneficiaries on his policies from work. They were unwilling to give Maria any of the money, which stemmed from their unhappiness at the marriage to begin with. Maria tried to figure out how to deal with the mortgage on the condo, and got no help from the bank – Wells Fargo. With the housing crash in progress Maria became just another statistic – someone who got stuck with a mortgage she couldn’t pay.
It’s dragged on and dragged out. She just recently went to court to find out a final decision on the condo, whether or not she would be forgiven the debt. And she will have to deal with the condo board as well for the $250 a month they say she owes on maintenance fees. She moved out of the place over 3 years ago, and has not had steady work for about that amount of time as well. Her credit has been ruined, and she can’t move ahead with her life without clearing up these messes left to her by the sudden death of the man she loved.
Its a sad commentary on what we emphasize about life. Financial education is something we leave until the last minute. We get caught up in trying to live day to day and don’t think ahead. We forget about looking at insurance that might be part of our benefits at work, even if the amounts are small. We forget about trying to think towards a future – any future. We can’t force ourselves to think about bad things happening to ourselves or those we love. Maria is only one of 3 women I know who have lost husbands at too young an age and had to deal with the financial fallout of not having the forethought to look through documents and make any changes needed, or start thinking about what might happen if a partner, spouse or close family got critically ill, became incapacitated, became chronically ill, or died suddenly.
Have we forgotten about the long term in the fight to live day to day? I think so. And I think that our lives are the worse for our need to see to day to day issues to the detriment of our long term well-being. I for one am going to spend some time looking at what I need to do to make it possible for my husband to continue should I fall ill or pass away. And he and I will be going through the process of making wills, health care proxies and other legal documents to help each other through any devastation. We hope to spend the next 30 years or more together, but being prepared for the worst is something we know we need to do.
I just wish Maria and Scott had been able to have the time to do all that.