The strong emotions associated with the death of a spouse can become even more amplified by the overwhelming host of financial issues that need to be addressed. Where does one start?
Losing a spouse is a life-changing event that married couples unfortunately need to be prepared for. Since survivors are faced with the daunting tasks of dealing with strong emotions while addressing immediate needs, oftentimes finances are put on the backburner. These are the times when your wealth advisor and other estate planning professionals can provide support. I have helped many clients navigate the financial complexities that occur after the death of a spouse, and my goal is not only to help manage necessary housekeeping tasks, but also to empower the survivor who may have never handled these important matters before.
If you are in this position, it can be difficult to know where to start, what needs to be done and the timeline for settling an estate. While many concerns don’t need to be addressed immediately, I often recommend that a helpful starting point can be in accessing all safety deposit boxes to secure essential documents and review the financial wishes of your spouse.
Next, it is important to reach out to your accountant, financial planner and/or attorney to let them know of your spouse’s passing. Oftentimes , you can inform the professional you are most comfortable with, and they will notify the others. This team of trusted professionals will be able to handle many necessary tasks and provide guidance. The first thing they will likely do is prepare a list of items to be completed by each family member, along with a timeline to help guide and set priorities. The team may also start gathering and organizing the documents you will need in the coming weeks.
If feasible, I recommend meeting with your team in a comfortable space such as your home or their office. It may be beneficial to have a close family member or friend join the meeting for support. Having multiple sets of ears listening to the conversation can be extremely helpful and make the process feel less overwhelming.
It is perfectly normal to not know what to ask or expect during that initial meeting. While your advisor will welcome all questions, here are some considerations to begin the conversation:
- What are my immediate spending needs, and do I have enough cash on hand to cover them?
- Are there any other family members’ spending needs that need to be reviewed?
- How do I obtain a death certificate, and how many copies do I need?
- How do I gain access to all of my account information, including online accounts, hard copies of statements and more?
- Do I need to authorize any family members or trusted contacts to work with my advisory team?
- Is there any additional documentation that I need to provide?
After the meeting, both you and your advisors will have a clearer outline of the next steps needed.
While the list of things to accomplish may seem lengthy, approaching them one at a time at a manageable pace can help you from feeling overwhelmed. Lean on your professionals to help guide you.
For additional resources, I encourage you to review our detailed What to do After the Death of a Loved One and Personal Document Checklist pieces. From record maintenance to insurance issues, these handy documents can help you maneuver through the red tape and paperwork.
The difficult emotions associated with the death of a spouse are often even more intensified by the overwhelming host of financial issues that need to be addressed. If you need assistance navigating this challenging time or have questions, reach out to your advisor.
Jada Diedrich is a financial advisor at Buckingham Wealth Partners.
For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based on third party data which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed the adequacy of this article. R-23-4997