Almost 20 years ago, my father passed away. It not only left my mother in state of stock, but at the time she had no idea what steps to take for getting her financial house in order. In many households, there is still one spouse who takes the dominant role in handling the personal finances for the family. Should that spouse pass away, it leaves the other spouse with often not knowing where all the important financial documents are located, and in some cases the investment accounts that were set up by the spouse.
Here are some tips to remember if this tragic events ever happens in your family:
1) Save the next 90 days of mail with all recent financial statements
2) Find all of the user name and passwords for your online financial sites including frequent reward point program
3) Gather together all important legal documents
4) Check to see if there were any collectibles or items in a safety deposit box
5) Begin to work on changing titling or ownership on all accounts with death certificate
6) Request your credit score
At oXYGen Financial, we have a system where we get all of the information into one single personal website for clients with one user name and password to plan for these events.
There was a good article in the Chicago Tribune this week around this topic.
Here is a bit from the article (Article Source):
There are strategies to keep in mind:
Organization – As location is to real estate, so organization is for getting through the business end of a loss.
Gather legal and financial documents, beginning with certified copies of the death certificate, which a funeral home typically can provide. You’ll need a dozen or more, depending on the complexity of the estate. Find your marriage certificate, your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security card, insurance policies, military discharge papers, wills and trust documents and your spouse’s retirement and investment account records.
Have these documents handy as you notify banks, investment firms and retirement plan holders of your loss. Note the date of these calls and the name of the person with whom you spoke.
Debt – If your spouse had cards in his or her name only, and you don’t live in a community-property state, those debts are paid from the estate. Even if the debt is greater than the assets of the estate, and even if a spouse was an authorized user but not a joint account holder, the surviving spouse isn’t responsible for payment, Hardekopf said.
Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission: ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt159.shtm.
If you jointly shared credit card debt, and your spouse’s death makes it unlikely you’ll be able to pay, contact the company and try to negotiate a payment plan or a reduction in the amount owed, Hardekopf suggests.
Gear up before you make the calls, said Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, a credit counselor. She suggests practicing introducing yourself out loud and saying your spouse just passed away before launching into your request; it can soften the person on the other end.
Moving forward – In some cases, whether or not there was a will, you’ll have only one shot at passing assets along to another heir, one of several situations in which you’ll want to consult an attorney, said Stephen Hartnett, associate director of education at the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.
If your spouse handled most of the financial planning, you’ll need to think about managing money.
Let a concerned family member or close friend help, even if it’s just to screen calls to help you avoid scams while you’re vulnerable.
oXYGen Financial, Inc.
11680 Great Oaks Way
Alpharetta, GA 30022 (map)
Phone 1.800.355.9318 or 770.777.0427
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