Mirador Real Advice Blog

Preparing for the Death of a Partner: It’s Always Good to Hope for the Best but Plan for the Worst

June 13, 2024

A client of ours had a friend who recently lost a spouse – it was very unexpected, and she found herself unprepared…unprepared to carry out her husband’s final wishes and unprepared to move forward and carry on without him.

So, she wrote this letter in hopes of helping others avoid the challenges she faced while she was grieving the loss of her husband, trying to settle his estate and also trying to move forward. If one is prepared, it also allows them to focus on maximizing time with their spouse in the final days, rather than racing to try and understand and document some of these issues.

Her points are very thought-provoking and highlight the importance of planning and being prepared – with her permission, we are sharing excerpts of her letter. Take the time to read it – the best time to prepare for your partner’s passing is when all is well, and you are both healthy. Hope for the Best but Plan for the Worst – it will make everything so much easier down the road.



These are the most important things you can do to be prepared in the event that your spouse / significant other passes away. Don’t assume everything has been handled and don’t assume your spouse knows all that you take care of each day. As a starting point, both partners should read through this list together. 

Ensure your Wills are Current

Ensure you have a will and that it reflects your current wishes. It is much better for you and your spouse to decide how your assets are to be distributed rather than having the government decide as part of the probate process.


In most relationships, one of you is managing the day-to-day finances. The other may be partially aware, but it usually falls onto one person’s plate. Make a list of ALL bank accounts and passwords for each account. List all bills, the time payment is due and which account they are paid from. And yes, if you have a little ‘mad money’ account put that information somewhere so it can be identified. There is no way, short of calling every financial institution, to find any hidden money. Make all bank accounts joint, whenever possible, because then the surviving spouse will still have access to the funds. Do not rush to close these accounts. There is no harm in leaving them open and there may be things that only notify you once a year. Set it up so that both partners have debit cards for each account, even if they are locked away and never used by the other person. It will make dealing with the bank and accessing the funds, after the passing of one spouse, that much easier.


Make sure ALL vehicles are registered to both people. As with the bank accounts, the vehicles will remain in the name of the surviving spouse. If this is not done, then for each vehicle, you will need to take a copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will to the registry office so they can change the name on the title of each vehicle. After their passing, you should check with the insurance company. Often the insurance stays with the vehicle under that person’s name until you remove it, but you will need to confirm there is still insurance in place, particularly if the vehicle was only registered in the name of the deceased. The same applies to all utility accounts. Be sure that all utility accounts for each property have both spouses named on them. If your name is not on the account you will not be able to make ANY changes without providing a copy of the death certificate and in some cases, also the will.

Check Beneficiaries on all of your Registered Accounts, Life Insurance and Pensions

 You may think everything will automatically go to your spouse, but if it is not set up that way, then it will go through your estate and be distributed in accordance with your will. It will take much longer to access the assets or receive the payments if it is part of your estate. Remember to check everything: is your employment pension set up properly? When you signed up for your employee pension, were you married to your current spouse? Make sure your employer pension has all of your current information so that your pension payments are not made to your estate, or worse, to an ex-spouse!!

Have that Difficult Conversation with your Spouse

What are their wishes upon passing? Do they want to be cremated or buried? And where would they like their ashes to be spread or the burial site to be? It is always easier to have this conversation when both partners are healthy and well. And it is really helpful for those left behind if the funeral arrangements are pre-planned.

Photos and other Memories

Be sure to take pictures off of your phones and cameras all of the time and back them up to more than one spot. After my husband passed away, I was sending something and went to delete the message and it started to delete all of my photos, including the last few I had taken. What if you lost the phone or camera, it got run over by a car or dropped in water? Take videos with voices…everyone takes lots of pictures but not many videos. Their voice is the first thing your mind will forget. I find it comforting to hear his voice and am grateful I have videos I can play.

Do It Now!!

Start cleaning out your stuff now!! We had just started to ‘declutter’ 53 years of stuff. We both found it overwhelming, thinking about how big a job it will be. Now, I am left to do it all by myself. A lifetime of accumulating good stuff….just do it one drawer a day, one cupboard a week, but START NOW. If you are not using it, give it to someone who you know could benefit from it now…otherwise it will just end up somewhere.


Is there someone you want to have all of your jewelry? Make a list or notation of who you want to inherit your pieces…they hold little value if they are sold, gifting is much better and certainly more meaningful.


We said “I Love You” every day and we always kissed goodnight…..that may not be your thing, but whatever is your thing, DO IT EVERYDAY…you never know what may happen. Hug often, while you can. My husband was so frail during the last days that I could only lean over the bed and squeeze him gently. I miss the big hugs we used to have!!

A Final Note to You

When someone you know loses their spouse, never underestimate the impact that YOU have by your notes, cards in the mail, and phone calls to check in. It lets the surviving spouse know that you are thinking of them and are there for them and also that going forward, they are still a part of your life and have a future with those that they used to hang around with as a couple. I have been so very blessed to have such wonderful family and friends who call me, text me, and continue to send me notes, people from my past who took the time to come to the funeral, some drove 3 to 4 hours to get here that I haven’t even seen for years. You will forever be in my debt. DOING THESE LITTLE THINGS MADE SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE TO ME in this most difficult time of my life.


So be sure to tell your significant other and those closest to you, how much they mean to you. And be sure to take little steps each day to ensure you are prepared if your spouse / significant other gets sick or passes away unexpectedly. Hoping for the Best but Planning for the Worst will make things much easier for you down the road.

Joyce Clarke, CPA, CA

Making Investor’s Lives Better