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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 certificates.

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 policies
  • Benefits provided by employers, including pension plans
  • 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 the process:

  • 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 by 50%.
  • 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.

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Investment Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisor Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Adviser. Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC, to residents of: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin. Cambridge and Cornerstone Financial Planning, LLC. are not affiliated.