I’ve Found Out I’m Dying… Now What?


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Tripp and Susan just got some bad news from Tripp’s doctor.  He has pancreatic cancer, and, while it is in the relatively early stages, even with the newest and most aggressive treatments, the survival rate is less than 10%.  Tripp, a retired Army dentist who continued practicing as a dentist after his retirement from the Army, realized that it was likely that he would not survive for long. His thoughts turned to Susan.

Throughout their 30 years of their marriage, Tripp had managed the finances. He managed everything from their investment portfolio to their monthly bills.  Susan had little or no interest in finances. Tripp provided her with a credit card for her use and bought her the car she wanted, and while she was not particularly frugal, neither was she a spendthrift. Tripp’s income had always covered the bills and anything Susan wanted, she would buy. Tripp had always considered it his role in their marriage to provide for them and manage “everything financial.”  Soon that would end, and Susan would be on her own.


Unfortunately, this situation is familiar to us. Several times in any given year, either a client, or someone close to one of our clients, passes away. Frequently individuals who have been recently widowed reach out to us for help in getting their financial affairs in order so they can confidently face what lies ahead.

In this situation, our team worked closely with Tripp and Susan to gradually transfer control of the finances to Susan while Tripp was still able to help. For the first time in her life, Susan realized that she must be in charge of their finances. She worked in earnest to understand the nuances of their assets - from online billpay, to writing checks, to balancing the accounts, even understanding their investments.

Within several months, as Tripp underwent chemotherapy and several experimental surgeries, Susan had completely taken over paying the monthly bills, and understood all of their sources of income. Also, Susan understood that once Tripp passed away, she would lose half of Tripp’s pension and her own Social Security benefit would go away (she would, however, retain Tripp’s benefit). Monthly withdrawals from their investments would be necessary, but “stress tests” showed that they were well prepared, and she should have money for the remainder of her natural life.


Eventually Tripp did pass away, but several months before he entered hospice for his final weeks, he expressed his gratitude for our help. Now Susan was confidently in charge of her own financial future. She was able to focus only on grieving Tripp’s loss and continuing her life without him, as opposed to feeling panicked and lost financially, possibly turning to well-meaning but uninformed family members for advice - or worse - a “friendly” financial advisor who might take advantage of her lack of financial sophistication.

Jonathan Darabos