Tips for Widows

June 08, 2016

Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult things you can go through in life. It is important to make decisions and move ahead with understanding your situation and doing things to help you. Here is a list of the tips to help you through this difficult situation.

What to do as soon as possible:

Get organized. Meet with a financial advisor to take an assessment of your situation.

Continue health care coverage. Don’t let coverage lapse for yourself or your children. If your health insurance coverage was through your loved one, contact his or her employer within 30 days of their death.

Apply for death or disability benefits. First, determine what benefits you are eligible for. Then sign up for what coverage is appropriate

Don’t necessarily pay off the mortgage. It’s often tempting to pay off an existing mortgage or even pay cash for a new home, particularly when resources such as life insurance benefits are available. However, as long as interest rates remain low it could often be better to keep the money in more liquid investments, rather than tie it up in a residence.

Retitle assets. Make sure to get the title changed on assets including real estate and other property held jointly with right of survivorship as well as joint bank, mutual fund and brokerage accounts.
What to do in the coming weeks and months:

Don’t let emotions rule financial decisions. As you go through the grieving process, it is imperative that you be conscious of your shifting emotions – anger, sadness, hopelessness, denial, depression – and not let them influence your financial decisions.

Organize financial records. You’ve already done some of this work by collecting records to apply for death, disability or pension benefits. Now collect the rest of your financial records, such as investment and retirement accounts, vehicle titles, deeds, bank accounts, credit cards and other debt statements. You want to do this to determine what assets you have and what debts are owed.

Transfer ownership. You’ll want to transfer ownership to your name only for all financial relationships you’ve held jointly. This includes bank accounts, investments accounts, loans, mortgages, automobiles, utilities and so on.

Contact creditors. You may find yourself temporarily unable to meet some financial obligations. Contact creditors as soon as possible to explain the situation. Many may be willing to delay or even renegotiate payments.

Seek professional financial advice. A financial advisor can help in two major ways. First, it’s difficult to make rational money decisions alone in such times of stress. Second, decisions about what to do with life insurance benefits, investments, retirement accounts and your home have major tax, estate and investment consequences that could benefit from expert advice.

Review your estate. Establish a new power of attorney, health care directive and review your will or trust documents.

What to do in the coming months and beyond:

Settle the estate. Generally, you have nine months from the date of death of your loved one in which to settle their estate. Working with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney, review the will and other estate documents and handle any legal aspects of the settlement.

Make your own life plans. In time, you’ll begin to think about your own future. That means taking a long-term financial view.

Develop your own investment plan. After you have regained some control of your life and in particular your financial life, should you consider readjusting your investment portfolio tailored for your goals and needs for the long-term.

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