Losing a spouse is a stressful transition, and the added pressure of having to settle the estate and organize finances can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make dealing with these matters less difficult.
- Notify others. When your spouse dies, your first step should be to contact anyone who is close to you and your spouse, and anyone who may help you with funeral preparations. Next, contact your attorney and other financial professionals. These professionals can help you prepare to contact life insurance companies, government agencies, and your spouse’s employer for information on how you can file for benefits.
- Get advice. Getting expert advice is essential. An attorney can help you go over your spouse’s will and start estate settlement procedures. Your funeral director may help you obtain copies of the death certificate and applications for Social Security and veterans benefits. Your financial advisor or life insurance agent can assist you with the claims process.
- Locate important documents and financial records and keep them organized. Before you can begin to settle your spouse’s estate or apply for insurance proceeds or government benefits, locate important documents and financial records. You may need to obtain certified copies of certain documents. For example, you’ll need a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate to apply for life insurance proceeds. To apply for Social Security benefits, you’ll need to provide birth, marriage, and death certificates. Having all of the information you need when you need it is important. Start by organizing all the documents by topic area, setting up a file for each. For example, you may want to set up separate files for estate records, insurance, government benefits, tax information, etc. Store your files in a safe but readily accessible place.
- Evaluate short-term income and expenses. When your spouse dies, you may have immediate expenses to handle, such as funeral costs or credit card debt. If you expect money from an insurance or estate settlement, it may take time for this money to arrive. Don’t panic- you have several options. If you are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you may be able to get the life insurance proceeds soon after you file or ask the insurance company if they’ll give you an advance. In the meantime, you can use credit cards for certain expenses, take out a cash advance against a credit card, or negotiate with creditors to allow you to postpone payment of certain debts for 30 days or more, if necessary.
- Avoid hasty decisions. 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, or loan money to others without reviewing your finances first. When you’re grieving, you may be especially vulnerable to pressure from salespeople or others. Finally, don’t make quick decisions about your investment portfolio. Take time to create a financial plan to fit your new life and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of risk you are taking. This may change over time.
–Mike Mungenast, Sr. Vice President, Senior Advisor
Vision Financial Group
4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243
Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc.
Investment advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC. Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.