As I can tell you from personal experience, losing a spouse is emotionally challenging. During this difficult time, managing finances can become overwhelming. I went to find tips for widows or widowers dealing with financial matters after the death of a spouse. Here’s what I found:
- Take Your Time: Grief can cloud your judgment, so give yourself time to process your emotions before making major financial decisions.
- Gather Important Documents: Collect essential documents such as the will, death certificate, insurance policies, bank statements, retirement account details, property deeds, and investment information. These will be necessary for managing the financial aspects.
- Notify Institutions: Inform relevant institutions about your spouse’s passing, including banks, credit card companies, insurance providers, and government agencies. This helps prevent any unauthorized access to accounts.
- Update Beneficiary Designations: Review and update beneficiary designations on insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets. Make sure they reflect your current wishes.
- Create a Financial Snapshot: Compile a comprehensive list of your assets, liabilities, income sources, and monthly expenses. This will help you understand your financial situation and make informed decisions.
- Seek Professional Advice: Consider consulting a financial advisor, estate attorney, or tax professional who focus on dealing with estates and inheritance. They can guide you through the legal and financial aspects.
- Evaluate Immediate Expenses: Determine the immediate expenses such as funeral costs, outstanding debts, and any legal fees. Use available assets or insurance proceeds to cover these costs.
- Review Social Security and Pensions: If your spouse was receiving Social Security benefits or a pension, understand how these benefits might change for you. Social Security survivor benefits and pension options may be available.
- Assess Your Income: Understand your sources of income after your spouse’s death. This may include salary, pensions, Social Security, investments, and rental income.
- Review Insurance Policies: Review your insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage for your needs. Update beneficiaries and assess whether any adjustments are necessary.
- Manage Debt: Address any joint debts you and your spouse had. Determine how they will be paid off and consider seeking advice on handling them appropriately.
- Create a Budget: Establish a new budget based on your changed financial circumstances. Prioritize essential expenses and allocate funds for savings and future goals.
- Consider Downsizing: If your housing situation is no longer suitable, think about whether downsizing or relocating would be financially beneficial.
- Update Legal Documents: Update your will, estate plan, and power of attorney documents to reflect your new circumstances and wishes.
- Embrace Long-Term Planning: Start planning for your long-term financial future. This might involve retirement planning, investments, and estate planning to ensure your financial security.
- Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about financial matters if you’re not already familiar. Understanding investments, taxes, and other financial concepts can empower you to make informed decisions.
Not all this information applied to my own situation, but it’s a helpful reminder about the many elements of finances that need to be addressed after a loved one dies.
My husband David Bleicher died unexpectedly at the age of 71 back in April. You can read more about him and his death here.
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival (www.BeforeIDieFestivals.com). She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her four books on planning ahead for end-of-life issues – A Good Goodbye, Kicking the Bucket List, Hail and Farewell, and Before I Die Festival in a Box™ – are available through Amazon and her website, www.AGoodGoodbye.com.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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