Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Prepared for the Unexpected

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Leslie Basham: It’s not pleasant to think about the day your mate will pass away, but Andrea Karsten says it’s important to have a financial plan set in place for when that day comes.

Andrea Karsten: People will come in. You’re grieving. You’re a hurting person. And there you are sitting at a desk or a conference room table. You don’t want to be doing it, but there it is. It’s in front of you. There are issues, practical issues that have to be taken care of.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 201, for August 20, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, my husband had a business trip this week to Grand Rapids, that was not too far from where we live, just a couple of hours away, and I have some really sweet friends in Grand Rapids. So I said, “Maybe I could go along for the ride.”

And, long story short, I ended up with my long-time friend Karen Melby, who has been a guest on Revive Our Hearts a number of times previously (we’ll remind you of her story in just a moment). When we started talking about connecting here, I said, “I’d love to record some radio about the journey that you have been on since losing your husband Scott” (now a couple of years ago).

Karen said to me, “Well, if we’re going to have this conversation, I know two other women I’d love to be included in it as well.”

So in addition to Karen Melby here in the studio at Our Daily Bread Ministries, who are hosting us today—we are so thankful for this sister ministry . . . Many of you listen to them on your local Christian radio station. So here we are with Karen, and then Lisa Hagenauer, who is an estate planning and probate attorney. And Lisa, in a moment I’m going to have to ask you what all that means.

Lisa Hagenauer: Absolutely.

Nancy: And then we have Andrea Karsten, who is a financial advisor. These three women got together not too long ago and did an event for a couple of hundred women called “Prepared to Carry On.”

So that’s what we’re calling this series, and you’ll understand better why. This is a really important topic. You’re going to be wanting to listen to it, wanting to get your mate to listen to it with you over the next several days.

But first I want to welcome you, Karen. It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other, but you’ve just been a precious friend over all these years. Thanks for bringing us together today.

Karen Melby: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here and continue the story.

Nancy: A lot of our listeners have heard your story in the past. You may remember, Karen has a daughter who paddle boarded across Lake Michigan a few years ago, and she came on and told her story. It was Karen and her daughter Ginny who were together on the broadcast. And then just a month later, we got the news that Scott, who had not been feeling well, had been diagnosed with leukemia, and that started a long hard journey for you guys.

Karen: Yes, a two-and-a-half year battle with leukemia. You were gracious and allowed Scott to share his story about what the Lord was teaching him—and me. And during that timeframe, we recorded with you a couple of different times. One was when he was just post-bone marrow transplant and was doing really well, and we were hopeful that this had been a cure.

And, as the Lord would have it, the cancer came back. Then we were able to record with you again.

Nancy: I remember that day. Scott was so weak, but the Lord gave him amazing strength for that interview.

Karen: Yes. It was amazing strength.

Nancy: His strength of spirit was amazing.

Karen: Yes. So it was just a few months, actually, Nancy. It was only a couple of months after your wedding. Scott was actually able to be present at your wedding; he sat through the ceremony.

Nancy: Yes. We were so thrilled. Those pictures—I cherish them, as I know you do.

Karen: I do. Then things just were not . . . it wasn’t possible for him to get any better. We tried some last-ditch effort treatment at Northwestern Hospital in downtown Chicago, but in January of 2016, Scott went home to be with the Lord. And at that point, he was completely healed—something we had been praying for for two-and-a-half years.

Nancy: It was an amazing memorial service, a celebration of a short life, relatively speaking, fifty-six Scott was. But to hear the testimonies of the lives that he had touched, and that you had touched as a couple—and we’re going to talk over the next few days about how many of those relationships that Scott had had over the years, men whose lives he’d invested in, proved to be a really helpful piece of your life moving on as a widow.

Karen: Yes. Precious friends—carrying on.

Nancy: So here, as a widow, but with an amazing confidence in the Lord and some beautiful pictures of how God has provided and is providing for your family. And you’re going to share more of that with us over the next few days.

Karen: Yes.

Nancy: Thank you for being a part of this conversation. I love seeing what God is doing in you and the journey He has you on. And the story He is writing in your life is producing fruit in others’ lives, that you’re willing to be used as an instrument for God to help others in many different areas, including this more-specific area we’re going to talk about today.

And that’s where Lisa and Andrea come in. Andrea, you’ve been a financial advisor for decades now. What got you interested in getting into that field?

Andrea: The financial advice field is pretty unique in the sense that people think a lot of their money. Right? They think a lot of something that’s very personal to them, and it’s a privilege to share and to walk with people as they’re figuring out their money.

Nancy: Yes.

Andrea: So, for me, I started more than twenty-five years ago in a local bank in the financial service industry. That long ago in the small local bank environment, finances, specifically mutual funds and investing, were separate from what the local bank was doing, which was primarily checking and savings and lending. So it really was an education process for those of us in the investment field to be working in a local bank.

My journey, and, really, my passion to stay in this industry has far more to do with the education side of it. Why is it that these different investments make a difference in the lives of people, in the lives of women? So we can talk to them about how these different things work for them.

Nancy: Already some of our listeners are thinking, I have no clue what you’re talking about. I don’t have any background in this area. Maybe it’s something that, I think, many listeners think, I’ll think about that down the road. But one of the things that you, Andrea, and you as well, Lisa, are doing is encouraging women and men and couples and singles, “You need to think about this sooner than later.”

I know this has been high on Robert’s and my radar—not high enough, soon enough. That’s why I’m sitting here as a learner today saying, “I need to hear this.” We’re behind in some of these areas, and it’s not because we want to be or we don’t care about honoring the Lord with our finances. It’s just that life is busy.

Andrea: Yes.

Nancy: There’s a lot going on. You just have to be intentional and saying, “How can I honor God now and down the road with what He has entrusted to me?”

This is a really important area. Even if you don’t think you are interested in this topic, you need to be. That’s why we’re going to have this conversation—not to tell you everything there is to learn or everything there is to know—but maybe just to get you saying, “I’m going to take the next step. I’m going to talk with my mate about this, and we’re going to make sure that we’re prepared for whatever may come down the road that the Lord may have in store for us.”

And that brings me to Lisa Hagenauer, an estate planning and probate attorney. Can you say that in English?

Lisa: Right.

Nancy: Simple English.

Lisa: Absolutely. So estate planning is helping people plan for their life as well as what happens for their family and for those that they care about after they’re gone. A lot of planning that we put in place is planning for life as well.

And then probate is simply the court process that we go through maybe if we don’t have adequate planning or maybe we do but something comes up. There are various issues that go through the courts, but I handle that as well, helping people who try to facilitate their estates that have to have some form of court action.

Nancy: And, Lisa, I know this impacts you personally. You’ve talked about how your mother wasn’t prepared for what she was going to face. Can you tell us just a little bit about that?

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been an estate planning attorney now for twenty-three years, but my parents were always very private people. I knew they had planning in place, but they were very hesitant to discuss details, especially my dad, who was really the one who handled everything.

They had a pretty traditional relationship. My mom was a homemaker. My dad really handled everything that had to do with financing.

So when my dad passed away four years ago, my mom was completely unprepared—from basic things, day-to-day things that we all take for granted. She’s eighty-one, and generationally just didn’t . . . she raised us kids, and that was her primary role.

Nancy: Had he been sick? Or was this more sudden?

Lisa: It wasn’t a sudden thing. My dad was actually born with a congenital heart defect and so from birth they knew—well, not from birth, but from a young person—he knew that he had some challenges. He had had multiple surgeries throughout his life.

Nancy: And they were older by this point, so it shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.

Lisa: It wasn’t a huge surprise. My dad was eighty-four when he passed away.

Nancy: And did they just not talk about this?

Lisa: They really didn’t. I really feel like it came from . . . My dad was so good at it and enjoyed it, and my mom had such confidence in him and knew that he had taken care of her—and he had, thank goodness. But just the day-to-day of how to implement all these things, where they had assets, what type of assets they had. And quite honestly, my mom didn’t know whether there was enough there for her. Luckily there was, but she had no part of that planning process at all.

Nancy: And what was that like for her, emotionally, after your dad’s passing?

Lisa: Oh, it was amazing the effect that it has had on her—the anxiety that it produces and the difficulty in just day-to-day living and missing my dad even more. To lose your partner and then all of a sudden feel like you're flailing and not sure even how to conduct your life going forward and how to access assets and whether you’re going to be okay and how to do things.

I, luckily, help her, but no one wants to rely on other people. Luckily, she does have children that she can rely on, but it makes it really difficult to know that you can’t stand on your own without that help.

Nancy: As you, Lisa and Andrea, look at people you know and people you’ve helped professionally, do you think that most people are not as prepared as they need to be for end-of-life issues, late-in-life issues, and then afterwards as the surviving mate—do you find that most people need to be better prepared?

Andrea: There is no doubt that people want to be more prepared when this occurs.

Nancy: This, being the passing of one’s mate?

Andrea: The passing of one’s mate. People will come in. You’re grieving. You’re a hurting person. There you are sitting at a desk or a conference room table, and you don’t want to be doing it, but there it is. It’s in front of you. And there are issues, practical issues that have to be taken care of.

Nancy: And, Karen, you and Scott experienced this in the months before his passing.

Karen: Yes.

Nancy: He was sick, but he was also requiring a lot of treatment and attention. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

Karen: Well, when we realized that Scott was not going to make it—there’s a point that you say, “Okay, we really need to get everything up to date. We need to take a look at our will. Has it been updated?”

Nancy: You have five children.

Karen: Yes. Five children.

Nancy: So there were a lot of aspects of this.

Karen: Yes. “Is our life insurance policy okay? Is it all set?” And as it turned out, there were things that were not up to date, and there were some things that were kind of tricky and had to be reworked.

Nancy: Tell us about the bank account, as an example.

Karen: Yes. Well, that was an interesting situation. (Laughing) So let me just backtrack a little bit. Because of raising five children, and Scott was a busy business man, and I was homeschooling. We had a lot going on, raising five kids.

Nancy: And very active in a lot of different kinds of ministry and a lot of relationships. You’re both very relational.

Karen: Yes—taking missions trips.

Nancy: Your lives were full.

Karen: We did have full lives. And so, because of that, we defaulted to let someone else handle our administrative issues—banking, insurance policies. For all the different things a family goes through administratively, we a woman handle it who was an admin. She worked most closely with Scott to handle all of these things, and it worked out really well for many years.

She set up different bank accounts for each of our children. The problem was that she was doing such a good job for so many years, that we were a little bit hands off. Scott stayed in tune with her. He knew what was going on, but I did not quite so much.

So the drawback of that was then, when he passed away, and I’m left with trying to pull all that back so that I had a good awareness of it.

Nancy: You were playing catch up.

Karen: I was playing catch up big time.

As you were talking to Lisa and to Andrea about this whole situation, the issue of having to deal with all this while grieving at the same time . . . Another widow actually said to me, “You know, Karen, it’s kind of like you’ve just run an emotional marathon, and then you’re asked to step into the cockpit of an airplane that you’ve never been trained to fly, and somebody says, ‘Now fly the plane.’”

And you look at that—all the buttons—you look at names of things that don’t make any sense, and it’s overwhelming.

Nancy: Yes. Which then makes the emotional burden even greater.

Karen: Yes. Absolutely yes.

So we did have a team of men in our lives. We had to find a new life insurance person that was local that could clean up the mess of the one that was from the Detroit area, which he did, who also then put us in touch with an estate planning attorney, like Lisa, who cleaned up all of that. But these men had to come to the hospital to get Scott’s signature, and we had to make decisions when Scott was able to think clearly and to have these kinds of discussions.

So the thing for me, and that we have talked about, is to be able to make these decisions when the sun is shining and you’re not in the eleventh hour.

Lisa: Yes.

Nancy: But that’s not really when you’re thinking about it.

Lisa: It isn’t when you’re thinking about it.

Karen: Exactly.

Lisa: Most people that I run into don’t come to me until they either have small children, so they think, Okay, we need something basic in place for guardian—just in case something happens to us. That’s really all they’re thinking about. Or they’ve had someone they know or love, whether that’s a parent or a friend, who has had something tragic happen, and they’ve seen what can happen when things aren’t in place.

Otherwise, it goes to everyone’s back burner

Nancy: Yes.

Lisa: And this is whether you’re young, old, single, married. All of this applies because life happens and there are always things that happen in life where, if you’re prepared, it’s just so much easier. And the last thing you want to do is have to figure all of that out.

Nancy: I heard you, Karen, use a statistic at a place where you were speaking. You said the average age for a woman to be widowed . . .I asked my husband if he would guess. He thought about it and said, “Sixty-two?” And you said it’s fifty-five.

Karen: Isn’t that incredible?

Nancy: That kind of blew me away. And so, you think of widows as 70s, 80s. Of course, you’ve got to be thinking about it by then.

Karen: Right. So you have a lot of time to do your family affairs. You always do—you think you do.

Lisa: But, no. The reality is it’s young people.

Karen: A dear friend was a widow at age thirty-six with two, literally babes in arms, and she was a woman who had life insurance. They had done enough planning. They had life insurance. She could care for her girls at home during that season of time.

But had there not been any plan in place, it could have been devastating. So we want to avoid the devastating moments. We want to make them fewer. We want more people to be prepared for this.

Lisa: The best gift you can give to yourself and your family, for sure, is to have that preparation done.

Nancy: So, Karen, as Scott was in those months when you knew he was terminal, what are some of the things that you wish you had thought about sooner or some of the hard things you had to discuss at that point, when there were a lot of other things you were needing to focus on? I know you talked, for example, and we haven’t really touched on this, but even about burial, how he would be buried. You guys hadn’t talked about that until Scott was close to the end there.

Karen: No. Isn’t that interesting? You would have thought that we would have, even at some point, knowing that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness two-and-a-half years earlier.

But nobody, in the course of treating a patient, you are always hopeful. You are always remaining hopeful, right up until the end. So you don’t want to even open the dialogue about a funeral arrangement because you want to remain hopeful, that’s part of your medical treatment, too.

So we didn’t talk about it until we were close to Hospice. And that was very interesting because Scott had said he was fine with just being cremated. And I said, “No! I don’t like that idea!”

He said, “Why not? I’m not going to be there. I’m going to be in heaven. I don’t want you and the kids going to a cemetery and visiting a cemetery plot.”

And I was not comfortable with that—for different reasons—but one, I will just share with you, it’s a very personal and tender thing. This man’s body, even though it was withering away, was dear and special to me. I just could not bring myself to the whole idea of cremation. I wanted it treated tenderly and beautifully. I wanted a burial. I wanted a gravestone to go back to. So he gave into my wishes, and we had a burial, and we have a beautiful tombstone with the saying that he had on it.

But this was one of those things that I wished that we had taken, like, a weekend away when he was healthy and we were raising our children, and really just had, like a weekend away for planning for the future and have the discussion of death as one of our topics of discussion and how you would handle it.

Nancy: I was teaching a week or so ago on the wife of Enoch who was translated, he didn’t see death. So I got to talking about death in that whole series. I mentioned that my husband, and I recently had been shopping for cemetery plots. And a woman, a fairly recent widow, came up to me afterwards. She's not an older woman. She’s about my age. She said, just kind of with tears in her eyes, “I’m so thankful you guys are doing that right now because when my husband got sick and was taken fairly quickly, in the last two weeks of his life, we were shopping for cemetery plots.” She said, “We had some in another state, but we had moved, and we hadn’t made changes, so we weren’t prepared for this season of life.”

Well, there’s lots of other things that need to be considered, and we’re going to bore down into some of those over the next few days here on Revive Our Hearts. So again, let me encourage you to, if you’re a wife listening to this, I want to encourage you to say to your husband, “Could we listen to this series together?” We’re not going to answer all your questions or all the questions you need to be asking, but I think we can at least encourage you: These are some of the things you need to be talking about, you need to be discussing.

And this is not, again, just for married people. One of our team members at Revive Our Hearts texted me while I was on the way up for this conversation. I told her what it was going to be about, and she said, “I need to listen to this one. I need some help with my will.”

So here’s a woman in her fifties, and she’s rightly saying, “This is something I need to be thinking about.” It’s something you need to be thinking about.

We’re to talk about the balance between being obsessed with planning and being fearful or anxious about the future and trusting the Lord, how do you think about all that? Because this is a subject that we don’t want to just think the way the world thinks—the world that doesn’t have Christ. We want to think in a way that’s biblically informed and grounded and led by the Holy Spirit of God.

This is not, like, the rest of our life is spiritual, but this part is just practical. It’s all one and the same because God has made us body, soul, and spirit. Death comes to every person—unless you live for the rapture. Unless you’re here when that happens, it’s going to happen. And so this is something we need to be talking about.

My husband and I are talking about it these day. This has prompted us to get into some areas that we’ve needed to, where we need to do some greater planning. So this is for me, too.

We’re going to continue this conversation with Karen and Lisa and Andrea, so I hope you’ll be sure and join us tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking about how to prepare for the loss of a mate. Even if you’re not married, financial preparation applies to everyone. I hope you’ll continue listening this week as we help you prepare.

As you prepare for the future, an important aspect of your planning is giving. Have you thought through how much of your estate you’d like to go to building God’s kingdom by supporting ministries you believe in? Donating can help minimize taxes, but you need to think it through and make a plan.

We’d like to help you think it through by providing an online tool called, “My Legacy Planner.” It’s free. Confidential. It takes less than ten minutes to complete. With the “My Legacy Planner,” you’ll quickly be able to assess your personal situation and feel prepared to meet with an advisor or attorney. Whether you’re assisting an aging parent or putting your own finances in order, we’re sure the “My Legacy Planner” is the simple, helpful tool you need.

To check it out, go to ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll have a link on today’s transcript.

When it comes to handling finances, Andrea Karsten says there are biblical principles we can turn to that will guide us through the process even in the midst of chaos and upheaval. Please be back tomorrow to hear those principles here on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you be a wise steward with what God’s given you. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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