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Life & death: do you have your shit together?

If you died suddenly, will your partner or spouse know how to fend for themselves in the midst of grief? Will your partner or family member know what your wishes were, will he/she have power of attorney to settle your affairs, access your accounts, have enough money to get through the first week, month, year? And if your partner were the one to go first, will you have all of that information? In short, when it comes to life/death planning, do you have your shit together?

That’s the question that Chanel Reynolds, a freelance designer in Seattle, mother of a 5-year-old son, and widow to an avid cyclist and software engineer, wants everyone to ask themselves. She didn’t “have her shit together,” and when her husband died suddenly in a biking accident, she was left trying to figure out where his passwords are, how to access his bank accounts, how to pay their mortgage, how to take care of her little boy and stepdaughter, all while going through the biggest, most devastating emotional trauma of her life.


Now Chanel is sharing her story and helping others via her website: getyourshittogether.org. I first discovered this story via a New York Times article, and this story held extra poignancy for me because of my recent marriage. I have to say that neither CB nor I have my shit together:

  • We don’t have a will – although I do have stated beneficiaries for my retirement accounts, which constitute 95% of my total assets)
  • We do not have a living will or directive – we simply have talked about, in generalities, what constitutes an acceptable quality of life
  • We don’t really know each others’ passwords, or even all the accounts that each others have
  • We do not have a medical power of attorney – even though we are married, CB and I have different last names, so I am worried that in case something happens, we may need additional “proof” that we are married or have the right to make decisions for each other
  • We do not have any life insurance – and maybe at this point we don’t need any, but that is something to be discussed once I get a full-time job

Do you “have your shit together” when it comes to end-of-life or sudden-death scenarios involving you and your family?

  • Jessie - We don't have our shit together yet either – but now that we're married and have a home – we've started the conversatoin ReplyCancel

  • TB at BlueCollar - I hate thinking about this kind of stuff. My wife and I have some of this stuff figured out, but not all of it. We shoudl get on with figuring out the rest of it, that's for sure. Because when it's too late, well, it's too late. ReplyCancel

  • Anne_UGifter - Nope, no shit completely together here. I know way more of the passwords and such than my spouse does, though some I'd have to guess at. I keep pestering for us to get a will over and over and it still hasn't happened. *sigh* I also worry about the last name thing sometimes and keep meaning to have a scaled down photocopy of our marriage licence in my wallet, but never get around to it.
    I completely love that the website is called "get your shit together." Absolutely love it.ReplyCancel

  • krantcents - As you get older, I would include Long Term Care insurance too. It can drain your savings and destroy retirement for the surviving spouse. ReplyCancel

  • Jules@FWAF - Nope..but something I definitely need to think about! Thanks for the info! ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - Yes – each have a will, and each have a few million in life insurance. We have enough insurance that if either one of us died, the other could pay off the house, pay for two private college educations (in approximate 2030 dollars), and have 6 months of full (read: both spouse) income to allow for a grieving period. And if we both die… whoa, our boys will be rolling in the dough! It’s not fun to think about, but settling these issues gives real peace of mind! ReplyCancel

  • lisang@expandng.com - THANK YOU for this resource. We need to get it together now that we have one child and another on the way! ReplyCancel

  • STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) - Your readers may be interested in my article called Estate Planning 2013: Now What: A Must Read For Everyone at my blog. The article explores many estate and gift tax aspects as well as what to think about now when it comes to estate planning. Hope this is of value to your readers. ReplyCancel

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