By Joe Gross, CDFA®
When you say, “I do” and start your marriage, the last thing you’re thinking about is the potential death of your spouse. We get it. It’s heart-wrenching and uncomfortable. But do you know what’s even worse? Being caught unprepared as you wade through what feels like insurmountable grief. And considering the difference in life expectancies of men and women, widowhood is a possibility you need to take seriously.
While there’s really no way to prepare emotionally for the loss of a life partner, you can prepare financially. Spending a little time and effort in advance to ensure you can answer the following questions will ease the burden if you find yourself in the excruciatingly difficult time of widowhood. So ask yourself, “If I were widowed tomorrow, would I be prepared?”
Do You Have a Trust in Place?
If your spouse doesn’t have a trust, they need to draw one up immediately. A trust ensures that your spouse’s assets are protected and are given to the right heirs in a seamless way. Unlike a will, trusts allow the owner to determine how their estate is disbursed rather than just listing their wishes. In addition, trusts do not need to go through the long and complicated process of probate that wills do, and they cannot be challenged. Without a trust, it takes a lot longer to get closure and all the details can get messy in the process. If your spouse does have a trust, make sure it’s up to date and that they have worked with a professional to get all the legalities in place.
Have You Organized Your Documents?
In the aftermath of your spouse’s passing, their will is not the only document you will need. Your marriage certificate, their birth certificate, and their Social Security card will be required to do things like request benefits or change the name on your car titles. Make sure you know where all this paperwork is located, in addition to automobile titles and property deeds.
What Benefits Are Available to You?
When your spouse dies, you will be entitled to Social Security benefits and possibly other assets like pension benefits, life insurance, and annuities. If they are still working, there’s a good chance you will be eligible for benefits through their employer which you might be unaware of. Have your loved one make a list of all the benefits you will receive at their death, and ensure you have the necessary information to claim them.
Do You Have Access to All Financial Account Information?
You probably have a checking account, savings account, retirement, and other investment accounts. When your spouse dies, the management of all accounts will fall to you, including checking, savings, investment, retirement accounts, and more. Therefore, you need a list of every account you have, whether joint or in only one of your names, the type of account, the institution that holds it, and the account number.
Do You Have a Trusted Advisor?
Having a strong support system will carry you through the death of your spouse and give you the strength to move forward. Part of that support system should be a trusted financial professional. In many marriages, the husband handles the finances and it is he who has a relationship with the family’s financial advisor. If it is he who passes first, his wife inherits an advisor she may not know well or necessarily trust.
It is vital you have someone you trust that you can turn to for help in financial matters. Widowhood is an extremely vulnerable time, and many unscrupulous people prey on widows. Take some time now to get to know your financial advisor and make sure you like working with them. Your well-being is of the utmost importance, so if necessary, find another advisor.
You’re Not Alone
One thing you’ll never regret is preparing for possible widowhood before it happens. At JGP Wealth Management, we aim to arm you with a solid financial foundation and empower and educate you to make decisions that are right for your life. As you prepare for widowhood, we are here to answer your questions. If you’d like to partner with a financial planner who understands your unique needs and inspires you to be more confident in your financial decisions, contact Joe today at 503-446-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Gross is first vice president and senior financial advisor at JGP Wealth Management, an independent, fee-based financial advisory firm in Portland, Oregon. With over 25 years of experience under his belt, Joe is passionate about putting his clients first and helping them stay focused on their financial goals, inspiring confidence in their future. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, he specializes in addressing the unique financial issues of divorce. Joe is known for his tenacity to keep clients on track toward their dreams and for his attention to detail, which is second to none! His clients know that nothing will slip through the cracks when working with Joe!Joe graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Outside of work, he enjoys being involved in the community and is actively involved with organizations close to his heart. Joe is a former president and current board member of the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington and a long-time member of The Multnomah Athletic Club. In his free time, he enjoys fly fishing, spending time with his family, and cheering on his alma mater, the University of Arizona. To learn more about Joe, connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also watch his latest webinar on How To Pick Up The Financial Pieces After Divorce.