Losing a Spouse: When to Tackle the Financial Details

 There are few times in life that are worse to make financial decisions than immediately following the death of a spouse. Whether sudden and unexpected or the result of a longtime illness, the loss can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, even during this time of grief, some financial issues need to be addressed. But our advice is to avoid making any major financial decisions right away. Big decisions may be left for weeks or months down the road, once you have had time to deal with your grief and can make rational decisions about your future.

So, what's most important to do right away?

Find Help: Identify a family member or close friend who can help you keep track of things that need to get done.

Make Copies: Get 10 - 20 copies of the certified death certificate to use in settling financial matters.

Call List: 

  • The Office: If your spouse was still working, notify his/her employer and get information on health insurance, any life insurance survivor benefits, and retirement benefits.
  • Financial Advisor: Contact your financial advisor for help in making sure needed cash is available for immediate expenses. Also, contact your financial advisor and financial institutions where you and your spouse have bank or investment accounts.
  • Claims Calls: Contact life insurance and/or annuity companies to notify them for claim purposes. Also contact the Social Security Administration and, if your spouse was a veteran, contact Veteran's Affairs.

While making these contacts is necessary to make sure your financial affairs will be handled going forward, it does not mean that decisions need to be made right away. There will be a lot of forms to be completed and, in some cases, decisions that need to be made about benefits to be paid to you, titling of assets, and beneficiaries to be updated. Your financial planner can be invaluable in helping you navigate this unchartered territory -- from assisting with paperwork to helping you make the most appropriate benefits choices. And most important of all, working with your financial planner will help you determine WHEN it is the right time to make the bigger financial decisions, helping you avoid making mistakes based on emotion and grief.

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In 2012 and 2013, Sandy was named to the Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. C14-003511