No one likes to think about dying or losing a
spouse. Financial planners can assist their clients
make sure that their life planning will take care
of their loved ones now and in the years to come.
This column offers a list of action items to help
you prepare for the unthinkable.
1. Start a file that you can use to keep hard
copies of important business and financial information.
There is no time like the present to review and
make any necessary changes to your will and other
estate planning documents. That’s one important
document for your file.
2. Next, determine where checks and financial
and business records will be kept. Also make sure
that each person is familiar with writing checks
and balancing monthly statements. If only one
person is in charge of family business and finances,
then the other spouse is at a huge disadvantage
if he or she has to take over in a crisis.
3. Copies of the following also should be compiled
for each household file: Social Security cards,
marriage certificate, and children’s birth
4. Now it’s time for your household to
make a list. Start by listing current assets and
account numbers, plus the name on the specific
title. Your list also should include lump-sum
payments or subsidies that would be awarded to
the surviving spouse such as:
- Account numbers and payout of life insurance
- Benefits provided by employers, including
- Estimated Social Security benefits
The second part of the list should include all
debts with corresponding account numbers and name(s)
listed on the title or account. In addition to
your mortgage, you should include any other property
holdings, credit cards, as well as automobile
leases or cell phone contracts.
5. After you have documented all of your household
assets and liabilities, it is time to review the
financial impact of losing a spouse. Your Financial
Planner can provide invaluable assistance in helping
estimate current expenses versus lump-sum payouts
and potentially reduced financial resources. There
are a few things to keep in mind while going through
- According to the Women’s Institute
for a Secure Retirement, a surviving spouse
should expect living expenses to be 80% of what
they were previously.
- In determining pension payouts, the surviving
spouse’s benefits are generally reduced
- Social Security benefits may be reduced by
one-third or more.
6. Oftentimes, it makes sense to identify a partner-friend
to help out in a crisis. This individual can provide
tremendous support when you are making arrangements
after the loss of a spouse. You should talk with
the person in advance and keep a current address
and phone number in their household file.
7. After you have compiled all this information,
keep a copy of all of the materials in their file
at home and in a fireproof safe. If you choose
to keep a copy in a safe deposit box, both names
must be listed on the account — or the surviving
spouse will not have immediate access.