Losing a spouse is a devastating event, and adapting to life afterward can be a stressful transition.
Add in the pressure of settling the estate and organizing finances, and it can be unbearable.
It’s not a topic most of us like to engage with, but it’s also a necessary one. We’re here to help get you through it.
Here are steps you can take to relieve pressure and make dealing with these matters less difficult.
Your first step should be to contact anyone close to you and your spouse who may help you with the next steps.
That includes contacting your attorney and other financial professionals. You’ll also want to contact life insurance companies, government agencies, and your spouse’s employer for information on how you can file for benefits.
An attorney can help you go over your spouse’s will and start estate settlement procedures. Mortuary directors can also be an excellent source of information and may help you obtain copies of the death certificate and applications for Social Security and veterans benefits.
Your life insurance agent can assist you with the claims process, or you can contact the company’s policyholder service department directly. You may also wish to consult with a financial professional, accountant, or tax advisor to help you organize your finances.
Locate Important Documents and Financial Records
Before you can begin to settle your spouse’s estate or apply for insurance proceeds or government benefits, you’ll need to locate important documents and financial records (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates, and life insurance policies).
Keep in mind that you may need to obtain certified copies of certain documents. For example, to prove your spouse’s passing to apply for life insurance proceeds, and to apply for Social Security benefits you’ll need to provide birth and marriage certificates as well.
Set up a Filing System
Start by reviewing all important documents and organizing them by topic area. Next, set up a file for each topic area. For example, you may want to set up separate files for estate records, insurance, government benefits, tax information, and so on.
Finally, be sure to store your files in a safe but readily accessible place. That way, you’ll be able to locate the information when you need it.
Set up a Phone and Mail System
You’ll probably have a lot on your mind during this stressful time. To help you keep track of certain tasks and details, set up a phone and mail system to record incoming and outgoing calls and mail.
For phone calls, keep a sheet of paper or notebook by the phone and write down the date of the call, the caller’s name, and a description of what you talked about.
For mail, write down whom the mail came from, the date you received it, and, if you sent a response, the date it was sent.
Also, if you don’t already have one, make a list of the names and phone numbers of organizations and people you might need to contact and post it near your phone.
Evaluate Short-Term Income and Expenses
There are a lot of costs that come with this stressful time. Even if you’re expecting money from an insurance or estate settlement, you may lack the funds to pay for those expenses right away. If that is the case, don’t panic. You have several options.
If your spouse had a life insurance policy that named you as the beneficiary, you may be able to get the life insurance proceeds within a few days after you file. And you can always ask the insurance company if they’ll give you an advance.
In the meantime, you can use credit cards for certain expenses. Or, if you need the cash, you can take out a cash advance against a credit card.
Also, you can try to negotiate with creditors to allow you to postpone payment of certain debts for 30 days or more, if necessary.
Avoid Hasty Decisions
This can include all sorts of things, but some noteworthy examples are:
- Don’t think about moving from your current home until you can make a decision based on reason rather than emotion.
- Don’t spend money impulsively. When you’re grieving, you may be especially vulnerable to pressure from salespeople.
- Don’t cave into pressure to sell or give away your spouse’s possessions. Wait until you can make clear-headed decisions.
- Don’t give or loan money to others without reviewing your finances first, taking into account your present and future needs and obligations.
This is a stressful, dark time, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable.
As experienced financial professionals, we help clients like you figure out the best strategy for their situation so that they don’t have to go through it alone.
Please connect with us and let us help you solidify your financial life. We would be delighted to help you through this hard experience.