A Financial Checklist for Newly Widowed Spouses

January 23, 2018

 

Losing a beloved life partner is a devastating experience that no one can fully predict. Despite the emotional heaviness one must navigate, another pressing topic requires attention: finances. Knowing how to move forward in your financial life can feel overwhelming and confusing. With the right guidance, surviving spouses can move beyond the confusion and find clarity. If you or a loved one has recently lost a spouse, here are some financial items to address:

 

Reconcile financial accounts

An important first step is to contact all financial organizations where you and your spouse held shared accounts, from your bank to mortgage to investments. You will need to alert them of your loved one’s passing and re-title your accounts. You also need to have your spouse’s name removed from any other joint accounts. Addressing these matters will keep your finances accurate and updated, and remove any potential roadblocks.

 

Collect any benefits

Each year, many people fail to claim money in the form of benefits, such as payments from pensions, life insurance, annuities, and more. Review your spouse’s affairs, identify which benefits are available to claim and take prompt action.  If you don’t have clear records, search through mail and financial files, contact insurance companies, insurance agents, accountants, financial advisors, and former employers to check for benefits that may be owed to you.

 

Identify the status of retirement accounts

Was your spouse already taking payments or still paying into a plan? Are you inheriting an IRA? The specific retirement accounts your spouse held will drive your next steps. For example, if you’re inheriting an IRA, your age can affect details like Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).  Working with a financial professional can help you identify the best strategies.

 

Revisit your investment strategies

Now is a good time to revisit your investments and identify if you need to realign anything. For example, you may receive benefit payments that you could redirect to other investment opportunities. Or, your spouse may have taken on more risk than you’re comfortable with. Take a look at how well your investments reflect your needs and future goals, and take action to ensure your portfolio supports life’s next chapter.

 

Work with a financial professional

Our brains work differently when under stress, meaning we can make emotionally distraught decisions that can lead to poor choices.  A financial professional can serve as a voice of reason and provide educated perspectives to help guide awareness and action. You can make the entire process less overwhelming with an objective professional at your side to guide you during this difficult time. 

 

Picking up the pieces after losing a spouse is never easy. If you or a loved one has recently been widowed and are seeking clarity for the road ahead, we’re happy to help. Please contact us at (253) 327-1177.

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