Mourning is painful and stressful. In the midst of dealing with the loss of a loved one, moving on with life, and taking care of legal issues, a surviving spouse is overwhelmed with emotions and new financial responsibilities.
The transition is typically harder for those who relied financially or logistically on their now-deceased spouse. The widow or widower might not know how to balance a checkbook or manage the retirement account because the decedent always handled “the money stuff.” We, at TCO, often see the death of a spouse become a financial shock for some individuals. Those who had a plan – and a team of experienced professionals – encounter fewer challenges during the grieving period.
Here are six tips based on our experience helping clients navigate the legal and financial turmoil that follows the loss of a life partner. Call our professionals if you have further needs. We can guide you through this difficult and entangled path.
Prepare for the paperwork
Request at least 12 certified copies of the death certificate. They are difficult to obtain later. Generally, you will need an original for each asset/account to be transferred. There will be lots of forms to fill out.
Determine your income stream
Determine your sources of income and how much you will receive monthly, then develop a new budget. Consult your investment professionals to assist in determining your needs, income stream, and how these might need to be altered.
Create a checklist
Consult your professional advisors (attorney, CPA, trust officer) to assist you in putting together a checklist and priorities. Notify the Social Security Administration of the death in order for you to obtain survivor benefits.
Avoid major life decisions the first year
You will be taken by the emotional toll and it’s possible that you might react in the heat of the moment. Avoid hasty decisions such as selling the house too quickly. Wait until you feel more settled.
Estate closure & insurance claim
Collect life insurance, rollover IRAs, file termination paperwork for any joint tenancy assets, create sub-trusts if required by a trust document, probate assets if needed.
Update your estate plan
Update your beneficiary designations, will and trust documents, as the death of your spouse might require changes in your estate plan.