Thinking about the potential death of a spouse is probably one of the most heart-wrenching and uncomfortable things to do. But do you know what’s even worse? Being caught unprepared as you wade through what feels like insurmountable grief. And considering the difference in life expectancies of men and women, widowhood is a possibility you need to take seriously.
While there is really no way to prepare emotionally for the loss of a life partner, you can prepare financially. Spending a little time and effort in advance to ensure you can answer the following questions will ease the burden if you find yourself in the difficult time of widowhood. So ask yourself, “If I were widowed tomorrow, would I be prepared?”
Do You Have Your Estate Plan in Place?
You should have your spouse’s estate documents – Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and (possibly) Trust(s) - in place and readily accessible. Accounts with beneficiary designations should be up to date and accurate.
Have You Organized Your Documents?
In the aftermath of your spouse’s passing, their estate documents are not the only documents you will need. Your marriage certificate, their birth certificate, and their Social Security card will be required to do things like request benefits or change the name on your car titles. Make sure you know where all this paperwork is located, in addition to automobile titles and property deeds.
What Benefits Are Available to You?
When your spouse dies, you may be entitled to Social Security benefits and possibly other assets like pension benefits, life insurance, and annuities. If they are still working, there’s a good chance you will be eligible for benefits through their employer which you may be unaware of. Have your loved one make a list of all the benefits you will receive at their death, and ensure you have the necessary information to claim them.
Do You Have Access to All Financial Account Information?
You probably have many accounts including checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement, and other investment accounts. When your spouse dies, the management of them will fall to you. Therefore, you need a list of every account you have, whether joint or in only one of your names, the type of account, the institution that holds it, the account number and contact information.
In addition to your assets, you may have liabilities, such as debts, insurance, and monthly utilities. If you have a mortgage, you don’t want to default on your mortgage while you’re trying to cope with your loved one’s death, record the relevant information for these accounts as well, including how and when payments are made.
What Does Your Spending Plan Look Like?
An important part of developing a plan to move forward alone will involve knowing your current spending needs. If you don’t already have a written budget, begin tracking your expenses and create one. It will be an incredible aid when planning for the future.
Do You Have a Trusted Advisor?
Having a strong support system will carry you through the death of your spouse and give you the strength to move forward. Part of that support system should be a trusted financial professional. In many marriages, the husband handles certain aspects of the finances and it may be he who has the relationship with the family’s financial advisor. If it is he who passes first, his wife inherits an advisor she may not know well, necessarily trust or like.
It is vital you have someone you trust that you can turn to for help in financial matters. Widowhood is an extremely vulnerable time, and many unscrupulous people prey on widows. Take some time now to get to know your financial advisor and make sure you like working with them. Your well-being is of the utmost importance, so if necessary, find another advisor.
You’re Not Alone
One thing you’ll never regret is preparing for possible widowhood before it happens. At Infiniti Wealth Management, we aim to arm you with a solid financial foundation and empower and educate you to make decisions that are right for your life. As you prepare for widowhood, we are here to answer your questions. Call our office at 845-278-8638 or send us a message to set up a complimentary consultation.
Michael Durante is a founder, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA®) at Infiniti Wealth Management, an independent, fee-only financial advisory firm. With over 25 years of experience, Mike specializes in serving women who are going through a life transition, whether that’s a divorce or the death of a spouse, as well as pre-retiree and retiree couples. He is passionate about helping his clients develop a personalized financial plan based on their values and goals so they enter retirement with confidence and peace of mind. Mike has both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from Pace University. When he’s not working, Mike loves spending time outdoors hiking, biking, walking, golfing, campfires, the beach and doing yard work, as well as spending time with family and friends. Mike also enjoys to read, travel, and check out local restaurants and events. To learn more about Mike, connect with him on LinkedIn.
March 16, 2022 - Michael Durante, CFP®, CDFA®