A Death in the Family

I am very excited to be participating in Women’s Money Week 2012. I am breaking from my usual posting schedule to post everyday this week in support of this project. Today’s post is about Money in Your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement Click here for more posts on this topic.


Today’s topic is also known as “Money in Your Life”, and that’s the view I’m going to be talking about. You see, what I want to talk about can happen in any stage of your life. We all hope it happens later rather than sooner, but it could happen anytime.

My mother-in-law died this morning.

C and I are in our mid-30s, but I’ve had friends lose their parents while they were still in their late teens/early 20s. However, my grandmother didn’t die until her youngest child was over 50. And I will tell you, it does not matter what age you are, what stage you are at in your life, losing a parent:

1) sucks

2) has major financial implications

3) no one wants to deal with the finances, but you have to


There are things you can do to make it easier on yourself, but it does mean having conversations with your parents that you do not want to have, especially if you are younger and your parents are in relatively good health. Have the conversations anyway.

What you want to know is where the will is, where life insurance policy information is kept, have they already made arrangements for their burial/cremation, are there agencies (besides social security, if they are drawing it) that need to be contacted?

I know you don’t want to know any of this information. It doesn’t change the fact that you need to know it, no matter your age.

My mother-in-law was actually an incredibly organized person. Things got less organized when she moved up here. Luckily, my mother was the person who packed most of the MIL’s belongings, and my mother is also incredibly organized.

This morning, we went into our basement and found a box marked “desk stuff”. Inside were my MIL’s files, with an index telling us what should be in each numbered file. We found the Will. We found the life insurance policies. We did not find the cremation information, but C thinks she probably didn’t pre-buy full cremation anyway.

We already knew how to contact the two agencies paying her disability because we have been handling her finances. Funeral directors apparently usually contact Social Security for you, so we will have to make sure to give her SSN to the funeral home that cremates her.

We also need to figure out what we need to do about her out of state property. We believe that there should be enough money in her estate to pay all of her medical bills, her cremation costs, and pay off the mortgage. If there is not, we actually have enough saved that we could cover what is left.

Of course, we also have to contact the tenants living in her condo. And decide what we are doing about it. Our decision for now is to keep the condo as long as the current tenants wish to live there. If they are interested in buying it, we will sell it to them. Otherwise, we will not sell it until they move.

Oh, and next year will be the first year I do not do my own taxes.


No one wants to think about their parents dying. I know I don’t. But knowing where all the financial paperwork is beforehand will actually save you a lot of time and energy at a time when you do not feel like you have much of either.


So do me a favor, regardless of what stage of life you are in- if you have parents, call them and tell them you love them. Then have the difficult conversation. It is easier to do it now, when they are still healthy and you can go back to living in denial, then to try and figure it out when it feels like the world has come crashing down.