Almost 25 years ago, my father passed away. My mother was a 5th grade school teacher and we had one of those households where dad predominantly took care of the finances even though both of my parent’s held down full time jobs. When my father died, it not only left my mother in a complete state of shock, but she also had no roadmap provided to her on what steps to take to get the financial house in order. In many households, one spouse usually controls and manages 80% or more of the family finances. Should you have a spouse pass away, here are six financial moves to make that can help you during this difficult transition.
- Handle Funeral Expenses– Funerals can end up becoming a very expensive proposition. Did you make arrangements and prepay burial expenses? Were their specific instructions around burial in the will? It’s important that those who are helping you with final and funeral expenses understand if you have enough cash to pay for the funeral. It is also critical during this stage to order 10 to 15 death certificates to use in the near future.
- Collect Financial Documents And Passwords– For the next 90 days, you will want to collect and hold on to all bills, statements, and other mail that comes in with the deceased spouse’s name on it. There may be credit cards, investment accounts, etc. that you were not aware that existed. During this 90 day period, you will want to notify the credit card companies and other institutions of the death as well. If at all possible, try to track down the document that has the user names and passwords, which can be a nightmare if they weren’t stored in one place.
- Get The Right People Involved– Make certain that you get yourself surrounded with the right trusted people during this time. This may be your lawyer, financial advisor, or accountant. There will be one or two family members that you need to rely on during this time. Be very careful around family asking too many financial questions before you get all of your information together.
- Guard Against Fraud– While you may want to put out a beautiful obituary in the local paper or write something on social media, you should be very wary about sharing details anywhere online or publicly. This is typically where others who are not so kind can pick up your information and potentially use the deceased name in a fraudulent way.
- Change Titling And Review Social Security- You should make sure you do a thorough analysis before you elect your social security benefit. It may make sense to collect the benefit or potentially to delay it into the future. You will also want to begin removing your spouse’s name from bank accounts, etc. and retitle the accounts into your name only or have another person on the account depending on your overall estate plan.
- Make A Game Plan– This is the final step which will be for you to revisit your goals and create a new financial plan. This may take more than 90 days, but it is crucial you determine the best way to marshal your resources once you regain your footing.
This is not an end all be all list, but a great guideline to use during this difficult emotional period. Try to use these smart money moves to help you make the right financial plan for the future.
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Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®, is co-CEO of oXYGen Financial and is a top ranked personal finance blogger (www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com). He is a regular contributor to Investment News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through NFP Advisor Services, LLC (NFPAS), Member FINRA/SIPC. Oxygen Financial is not affiliated with NFPAS.