The pain of losing a spouse is unimaginable, and it’s a loss that you can never be ready for. When that loss is coupled with having to make financial decisions, this can make for a very overwhelming process. The good news is there is a path forward. Let’s start by looking at a few things to consider:
Start with the most pressing issues
The worst time to make a decision is when you’re emotional. Your decision-making skills are likely to be compromised during this emotional time, so it’s okay to take your time. Many decisions can be organized with those that need to be made now, next and later. Start only with the time-sensitive issues, like funeral costs and reading of the will. This will help you feel less overwhelmed and can also help you not make any decisions you may regret.
Look at your life insurance
Depending on your life insurance policy, you may find this money to be very helpful at sustaining your finances as you get things in order. Talk to your financial professional about your policy and what the next steps are. And make sure you look into your spouse’s benefits from their employment to see if there is any life insurance available. If you need guidance as you work through the paperwork, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
Take stock of your accounts
Review your loans, bills, benefits, and accounts to see what money is owed and available. Look into all of your online banking profiles, checking, savings, investments, and expenses, and then start separating the items by ownership. See what accounts are in your name and what are in your spouse’s name so you know what to do next. Don’t take your spouse off of your accounts right away, because you may still be receiving checks in their name for up to a year. It’s very important to know where all of your money is in order to make the right decisions.
Think about social security
If you or your spouse are already receiving social security benefits, you may still be able to take whichever social security payment is higher. Widows don’t need to wait until the year of their spouse’s retirement to take this benefit, and are eligible to take from the account starting at 60. However, it may be a better option for you to delay collecting survivor benefits so that the account continues to grow for a few more years. It’s important to talk to your financial professional about when the right time to take from this account is and what tax implications there are to consider.
Talk to your financial professional
This is probably the most important step in this process. Your financial professional should know where your money is and how it’s working for you, and you’ll be able to lean on them to help you make the right decisions in this emotional time. It’s so important to have this expert to rely on, so you don’t have to carry the burden yourself. If you don’t have a financial professional or are not comfortable with the one you have, don’t hesitate to find someone new. The key to finding someone that can help is that they should take the time needed to make sure you understand what decisions are being made and why. If something doesn’t feel right, follow your gut. The right financial professional is out there, keep looking if needed.
As you begin the journey of grieving, remember to take the time to process all that is happening. Take a deep breath and ask for what you need. You are your best advocate.
This post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as specific financial, legal or tax advice. Depending on your individual circumstances, the strategies discussed in this presentation may not be appropriate for your situation. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Always consult your legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.