Stepping into the role of financial decision maker alone typically is a daunting experience for anyone especially when it comes while you are grieving over the loss of your spouse. Here are some suggestions to help surviving spouses prepare for handling money and financial issues freeing up some time to deal with emotional needs.
- Address immediate concerns. Not all decisions need to be made overnight and the best plan is to have a well thought out comprehensive financial plan for the surviving spouse. Developing such a plan takes time and should be done in steps. Putting off major financial decisions before a plan is in place not only can reduce the level of stress on the surviving spouse but can also help them avoid having long term regret over decisions made during this period. Focus on accomplishing the immediate steps to take in the first few days following the loss of a spouse. However, it is not prudent to put off making financial decisions and getting things addressed in place for too long. Of course this time frame will vary for everyone and when possible it is best to have started participating in financial decision making well before the loss of a spouse.
- Know where the money is. This is one of the immediate concerns that should be addressed. Make sure you have access to cash and current information for all of your financial documents such as bank statements, brokerage statements, insurance information, pension statements or any other investments. A good place to double check is your federal tax return. All sources of income are listed in the various tax return schedules however, many surviving spouses are not familiar with reading tax returns nor any of the other documents listed above and working with a comprehensive financial advisor will be beneficial to help explain them all and where to locate them.
- Determine goals for future. In order to make financial decisions that will appropriately serve your long and short term interests you need to have clear goals. How much monthly income do you need? Do you want to travel? Do you want to make monetary gifts to your family? Understanding your goals is the roadmap for a good financial plan. Working with the right wealth advisor you will be able to create a well thought out plan.
- Choose comprehensive financial advisor carefully. This is very important as you must be comfortable with and trust your advisor. You will want to create a long term partnership with your advisor and have the peace of mind you deserve knowing your advisor is looking after you at all times. Your advisor should be easy to talk to, understandable, knowledgeable, resourceful, accessible and an excellent listener who clearly understands your goals. Shop around, ask family and friends, interview several advisors and don’t hesitate to follow your intuition to determine who you will work with best.
Karen helps attorneys; mediators, individuals and couples, navigate through the financial morass of divorce and widowhood. Her expertise lies in understanding the special tax and financial issues that can plague divorce and she helps clients get their financial fair share and equitable settlements. She provides financial analysis, projections and solutions so clients can avoid long-term regret over decisions made early on in divorce and widowhood. Karen offers a range of financial, investment and insurance services that address clients’ complete financial picture and long-term needs before, during and after marriage. She is currently writing a book entitled, “To Have and To Hold Onto Your Financial Fair Share: Financial Decision Making When Marriage Ends in Divorce or Death.”
“Bringing Rationality to Irrational Situations”