Protecting Your Financial Future After the Loss of Your Spouse
When you're grieving the loss of your spouse, dealing with financial matters is probably the last thing on your mind. Yet while you're grappling with the major changes to your own life, one of those changes includes the financial decisions that must be made right away, along with planning for your financial future. This guide will walk you through everything, so that it's less overwhelming when the time comes.
Some things concerning your financial future can wait, but there are a few steps you should take soon after your spouse's passing. According to Market Watch, these four needs are the ones you should take care of first: retitle all accounts, start collecting life insurance, probate the will, and contact the Social Security Administration about survivor benefits. With each of these steps, simply contact the bank or professional involved, and they will guide you through the process. Social Security survivor benefits vary depending on several factors, so familiarize yourself with the differences so you know what to expect.
Along with understanding the death benefits you are entitled to, it's also important to be aware of how any debts will be affected. The way that loans are handled after the death of a co-signer can vary by state, so start looking into what the laws are where you live. Forbes recommends contacting the loan servicer because they should have a department specifically for handling the death of a borrower, and in most cases, they will work with you to keep the loan.
Protect Against Fraud
Identity theft is an unfortunate reality, but you can protect your spouse's identity and prevent being hit with fraudulent charges. You don't want to close credit card accounts right away. Instead, leave accounts open, and keep your spouse's primary credit cards and driver's license together in a safe location. Leaving these accounts open can help you identify any recurring payments that need to be canceled. The most important thing is to be in close contact with your lawyer to ensure no steps are missed when closing out the estate. Just be aware of some hidden fees of closing an estate and how you can avoid them.
Taking Care of Your Financial Future
Along with taking care of immediate financial needs, you want to start thinking about your financial future and having peace of mind that your finances stay secure. Now is the time to make sure you have a solid financial team that you can count on. A trusted financial team should include a lawyer, a certified public accountant (CPA), and a certified financial planner. You may want to ask an adult child or other close family member to help you with this.
It's also a good idea to have your loved one take on certain legal advocacy roles for you so that they will be able to act in your best interest if there comes a time when you aren't able to do so yourself. Two of the most important forms of legal authorization for your loved one are power of attorney and a living will. When you designate your loved one as durable power of attorney, you can determine what is included, but in general, it gives them the ability to maintain your financial interests.
These legal designations are crucial to guaranteeing that your financial future is secure when you are unable to make important decisions yourself. You should also go ahead and organize important legal documents, including passwords and the names and phone numbers of legal and medical professionals. Make sure your loved one knows where these are located and can access them when needed.
Even though some of these tips are less urgent than others, don't put them off. As hard as it may be to do this when you're grieving, you don't want to end up with financial worries later on. Checking off your financial to-do list will give you and your family a sense of peace that you're protecting your future.
—Lucille Rosetti, The Bereaved.org
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
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