Being Generous to the End

July 29, 2011

A while back a friend of mine lost her husband and son in an airplane crash. It was unbelievably devastating, but what made it even harder was being unprepared to deal with all the paperwork for her husband’s estate and just the over all hassle of trying to find the electric bill or where the birth certificates were stored.

© Lorenz Timm | Dreamstime.comWhether you or your husband handles the paperwork, it is a kind and generous thing to make sure that your spouse knows where all the important papers are and how to handle the household expenses. No one expects to be widowed, but for some it will happen. Be kind. Be prepared.

In an effort to help gals with this, I’ve created some pages. Print them out, use them as check lists, fill in the info, file as appropriate. Hopefully you will never need this info, but if you do, it will save you or your sweetie a truckload of hassle.

What I have listed below is just a suggestion for organizing your paperwork. Please be aware that you have many options. You can file things on your computer, in files, in binders and more. Hopefully what I have here will help you see the different kinds of paperwork you may need to handle and help you gather what you need.

I would also recommend that you not run out and buy a lot of fancy containers, labels and what not. Start with basic office supplies and use whatever boxes and household items you have around the house. When you have tried a number of things and have found a system that works for you, then buy the pretty baskets and fancy organizers. 

These papers have little day to day use, you just need to have them handy. Some of these are original papers (like birth certificates). Others are reference materials (like your auto insurance policy).


© Lane Erickson | Dreamstime.comsomething to hang your file folders in (safe, cabinet, box, etc.)
hanging file folders w/tabs – expandable or box bottom are nice
manila folders
pen & paper
your pile of important papers
sticky notes

 The “checklist” will give you an idea of what is important and the “how to” will help you set up a file system from which you can retrieve your papers when you need them.

These are the necessary day to day materials (like bills and bank statements).  One person usually does the bill paying and general paperwork, so it’s a good idea to share that information or create reference pages so that the non-bill-paying spouse can figure out what needs to be done.

office supplies

The “checklist” will give you an idea of what papers you need.  The “how to” will help you set up a work station.  The “reference pages” will have overall information that you might need.  The “household binder” is just one idea for gathering household information.

You will have a whole host of other kinds of papers, from correspondence to your kid’s art work.  These are not necessary to running your household, but they’re important to you in some way.  I would recommend setting these aside to deal with later as a separate organizational issue.

Yes, you and your husband need a will.  Even if you have no children and not much in the way of worldly goods, having a simple will can save you a tremendous amount of hassle.  Most states will automatically give everything to the surviving spouse, but a will makes that smooth and easy.  If you have children, a will is a must.  It is rare that both spouses die at the same time, but please be wise and make plans for your children.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to insurance.  I respect that people have different beliefs, but if you are in the market for an opinion, may I encourage you to look into this?  Insurance money can make a difficult time much more bearable.  It may also keep you from having to sell your house or scramble for a different job to make ends meet.  You don’t need more stress at such a time.

Four Must Have Insurance Policies by Dave Ramsey

When it comes to decisions, especially important decisions, I encourage you to act as slowly as you can.  One common way of dealing with grief is to be busy. There are details to deal with, but take things as slowly as your sanity will allow.  You won’t be thinking well.  Do only those things that have to be done and go to your wisest friends for advice when making any important decisions.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan Stockdale July 31, 2011 at 5:09 am

Thank you, Lori. This post is priceless.


Linda Green July 31, 2011 at 9:29 am

This was an excellent post. We all need the reminder to get the important but
not urgent things organized and taken care of. I enjoyed your checklists and suggestions for what and how to organize it. Thanks, Linda.


Martha Jones July 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

This is an important post. This is crucial information for our military spouses especially before deployments. Another reference to helping prepare can be found on the website: The Bible study book is “Making your marriage deployment ready” ISBN 978-1-60200-232-6
We minister to many families who aren’t prepared when the servicemember is killed or injuried. Thanks for sending this to us so we can ALL help our military families.


T August 1, 2011 at 5:49 pm

You remind me of a post at the Simple Dollar on this same topic. Good reminder. Thank you!


The Generous Wife August 1, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Alisa G. suggested:
Another idea for generous to the end is Emilie Barnes’ Home and Family Organization
Notebook, described in her book More Hours in My Day.


The Generous Wife August 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Ann R. suggested:
The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die


The Generous Wife August 2, 2011 at 9:56 am

Jerry S shared:
Recently we lost my Mom. Some of her records were scattered & some were very neat. Often in a death you or your spouse has access to these very sensitive records. However, in the case of Mom’s passing, we had difficulty getting to her files at first. Fortunately, we found extra records which declared the attorney’s she used. Very important, to have these available. She also had her final requests available for us. My wife & I became her Power of Attorney when she entered the nursing home a few months prior to her passing. Be sure someone responsible is on the house papers & that you have a specific will as mentioned above in your notes. This is so critical.
If you have a safety deposit but leave the pertinent information for those who have access to it, in a easy to find location. If you have a lock box at home, who in your family knows where it is & how to get into it?

You might also want to be sure you update any will as new children arrive in the family. Some of the grandchildren and great grandchildren were omitted in Mom’s final papers. It just made a few tense moments for us as we processed the paperwork.


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