This past weekend I attended a funeral of a family member’s spouse. It really made me think not only about the emotional toll, but the financial impact death can have. A widow requires special considerations when planning for her future. Generally most surviving spouses are women and the focus for my blog will be on widows, however widowers may find value in the information as well.
When a husband dies, the widow dives head first into dealing with the murky waters of probate, tax, legal and financial issues. In many marriages, the husband had taken the lead in tax and financial issues and so, for the widow, understanding these new and confusing challenges can be quite daunting. It may be difficult to know what to do, what not to do and which direction to take. To make it worse, the emotional strain and heartache can make it feel as though she is swimming through these financial seas alone with broken goggles and no lifejacket.
Where can she seek help in the midst of all the chaos and pain associated with such a loss? I did a Google search on financial planning for widows and found over 1,570,000 results. That’s a lot of information! How can she know who to go to and who she can trust? When learning how to swim people typically hire certified, trained instructors to teach them; they don’t hire non-certified or inexperienced instructors to teach such a life-saving skill. The considerations are the same in the financial oceans- why would the widow, or anyone for that matter, use a different approach to assuring their financial survival?
Work with a team of financial professionals that are passionate about helping people manage the choppy financial waters of life. My team and I are also fiduciaries, which means we put clients’ best interests first. In the early stages of grief, a widow may make poor decisions out of fear or confusion; to help avoid this, she should consider working with an advisor that utilizes a discovery process to gather the information necessary to determine what are her immediate needs and which needs can be prioritized later.
For example, a qualified financial professional could help widows navigate the choices and apply for various benefits, including but not limited to insurance, retirement, Social Security and pension benefits. The professional could also help advise on cash flow needs and assess planning from risk management, estate, tax and investment perspectives. This guidance can be especially critical if the widow has little to no experience with financial matters. After addressing these and other immediate needs, the professional could provide a financial assessment and identify other issues to address, such as overall diversification of the widow’s assets, investment risks and strategies, and tax efficiencies.
Finding someone you trust and who has your best interest in mind is important, especially when dealing with the loss of a spouse. Don’t dive into murky financial waters head first; instead, find the right advisor to help keep your financial situation afloat.