Making Financial Preparations Ahead of Surgery

Photo courtesy of Frenkieb

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write me directly, or comment in various posts, with prayers and well-wishes for my mom.  Her surgery is scheduled for today, August 25th, and could last for several hours.  I may be away from the blog for extended periods this week, so if I seem slow to respond to comments or emails, it is not because I’m not appreciate of them.  I’ll post an update on her condition when I can.

The last couple weeks have been a scary time for all of us, as my mom was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition that will require surgical intervention.  In fact, by the time this post is published she will be undergoing surgery.  It has been more than a year now since my own shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and remove a large bone spur from my shoulder joint.  I thought it might be a good time to review the types of financial preparations we both have made in the unlikely event of a negative outcome.

Emergency Fund

In the weeks leading up to surgery I suspended all debt repayment above and beyond my minimum payments.  With the extra money I added to my emergency fund, as sort of a first line of defense in case of unexpected medical costs, or a lengthier hospital stay than planned.  I also wanted my wife to have a cash cushion in case something happened and it took time for insurance/health benefits to be processed.  By the way, it is a good idea to have your spouse, or someone else you trust, listed on your checking account for this very reason.  If you are currently the only one listed on your checking or savings account you may want to take a spouse or friend with you to the bank and have them added to the account.  This can usually be accomplished by you both signing a “signature card,” or in some cases a new, joint account must be opened.  Either way, it is a good idea for someone else to have access to your money in an emergency situation.  Be sure this is someone you trust will not clean you out without permission!

Living Will/Advanced Directive

When I went for my pre-op appointment I was given the option to file an advanced directive with the hospital. After reading over the informational sheet provided I thought this would be a good idea because I could list who I wanted to be involved in decisions regarding my care should I not be able to make them for myself.  I also wanted to make clear what steps I wanted taken on my behalf  (food, hydration, life-support, etc.).  By making these choices up front I was relieving loved ones the burden of having to make such tough decisions in the event something went dreadfully wrong during the surgery.

Update Your Will

I am by nature a procrastinator.  I joke that I work best when the pressure is really on at the last minute, and if it wasn’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.  Unfortunately, the last minute is not the time to wait to get a proper will in place.  In fact, because any of us could go at any minute, it is a good idea for everyone to have a will in place–particularly those with large assets and/or children.  Take some time to make sure your last wishes are known and well-documented, and that someone knows where to find that document.

Updated List of Accounts

A couple weeks before surgery I listed all of my accounts in an Excel document (legal pad will do), including contact information, account numbers, current balances, payments due, etc.  I also included some general instructions on who to contact for insurance policies and indicated where the hard copy certificates of insurance were located.  My wife and I reviewed this list prior to my surgery and she kept a hard copy in a designated area at home.

Put Your Bills on Autopilot

If you feel like you are the last person on Earth not using Online Bill Pay, do not fear, you have company.  I don’t know if it because I am just the world’s slowest adopter, or because strangely enough, I actually like paying bills, balancing my accounts, etc.  Still, it is a good idea to put as many of your regular payments on “auto pilot” while you are recovering from surgery.  Most companies now allow you to schedule payments ahead of time, and most banks offer a free (or nearly free) bill-paying service where you can schedule payments well in advance of their due date.

I know it seems morbid to discuss planning for worst case scenarios, but it really will help loved ones handle your affairs if you are gone, or otherwise unable to handle them yourself.  Hopefully all will go smoothly with your procedure and you will be back home before any of these contingencies would have to be implemented.


  1. Thank you for this post. It is a reminder that we all need to be prepared for these types of financial issues.

    My thoughts and prayers are with your mom, and the rest of your family.

  2. Far better that you be “morbid” now than leaving your family ill-prepared. Thanks for outlining your “just-in-case” practices, someone out there will be happy to have your thoughts.

    Prayers and best wishes to your mom…

  3. Facing facts and determining the best course of action (ie.- creating a will and scheduling payments, etc) isn’t morbid. What would be morbid would be to obsess over it and think about dying over and over. Knowing that we will all die someday is simply a fact. Just like how the sun rises in the east.

    Speaking of wills, I’ve been trying to get information about how to put one together and whether getting a lawyer involved is absolutely necessary. I’m still young yet but I want to make sure that my wife and other family members would be taken care of with my (rather large) insurance policy. What does it usually cost? Does it require a lawyer? What documents are necessary and does creating a will require filing it at a courthouse? Whom do I leave it with to make sure it will be handled properly? And what happens if the executor of the will goes at or near the same time that I do? Crazy questions, I know, but I have no experience with sort of thing and don’t want to pay some lawyer $100 an hour to go over them with me.

    Good luck to your mother and your family. I know that no matter what happens, you will be able to handle it FrugalDad. Take care.

  4. Creating a list of accounts I think is often an overlooked necessity. Automatic bill-pay is nice, but, again, make sure someone knows how to access this information. While I pay all of our bills electronically, I still have paper bills sent to the house for my records and so that my wife would know what bills are due if I am not there.

  5. After my father died (at 63), my mother took care of all such arrangements with me as the agent, including adding me to her bank account. Neither she nor I had to be concerned for the next 30 years until her death.

    A few things that mom did that you’ve not mentioned:

    Durable/Medical power of attorney so that someone can act for you if you are not able yourself. This should include a conditional POA for someone else in case your principal ‘attorney’ (probably your spouse) is also incapable.

    Include your spouse or other trusted friend on any safe deposit boxes.

    Make funeral arrangements well in advance. Besides the plot (next to dad’s) and the headstone, mom gave the funeral home instructions.

    Give copies of the legal papers to someone else you deem responsible–normally your lawyer–in case the primary copies are unaccessable. Duplicates are good.

    A list of where all these things are. And discuss all these areas with spouse and other possible attorney. (I’m using attorney in the sense of agent, as in “power of attorney”.)