Published by Mark Ring, Managing Partner, Founding Partner and Wealth Advisor
Thinking about the potential death of a spouse is probably one of the most heart-wrenching and uncomfortable things to do. 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 is really no way to prepare emotionally for the loss of a life partner, you can prepare financially. In spending a little time and effort in advance to ensure you can answer the following questions, we hope that 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 is up to date and 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 of 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 are 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 them will fall to you. 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.
In addition to your assets, you have liabilities, such as debts, insurance, and monthly utilities. Since you don’t want to default on your mortgage while you’re trying to cope with your loved one’s death, record the relevant information for these accounts as well, including how and when payments are made.
What Does Your Spending Plan Look Like?
An important part of developing a plan to move forward alone will involve knowing your current spending needs. If you don’t already have a written budget, begin tracking your expenses and create one. It will be an incredible aid when planning for the future.
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 neither knows nor trusts.
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 will not regret is preparing for possible widowhood before it happens. At Jacob William Advisory, 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. Contact our office by calling 410-821-6724 or emailing [email protected] or schedule an appointment at https://www.jacobwilliam.com/insights/#contact.
Mark Ring is a Managing Partner, Founding Partner and Wealth Advisor at Jacob William Advisory, a wealth management firm whose sole mission is to service their clients’ needs beyond their expectations. Mark has over 30 years of industry experience and for the past decade, he has been committed to building Jacob William Advisory into one of the foremost wealth advisory firms. Mark graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and spends his time outside of the office with his wife, Nancy, and his two wonderful children. He gives his time to numerous nonprofit organizations related to education and the arts, often serving as a board member. He enjoys playing tennis, golf, bicycling, cooking, and traveling. Learn more about Mark by connecting with him on LinkedIn.
For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.