If you've experienced the loss of a spouse, sorting out your finances may seem like yet another burden to deal with during an already difficult time. You will likely want to take some time to grieve, and perhaps enlist the aid of a trusted friend or family member to help you take care of the more complicated details.
When you're ready to start putting together a plan, you may be able to take some steps that help make financial planning for widows and widowers a little less burdensome. These five considerations are a good place to start.
1. Have Multiple Certified Copies of Your Spouse's Death Certificate
You will likely need to provide a death certificate as documentation to any financial entity or institution, including banks, credit card companies, insurance providers and investment companies. The process for obtaining copies of this document varies by state, and an easy way to find instructions may be to search online for how to get a copy of a death certificate in your state. Then, look for information on government websites on how to start the process.
2. Try to Stick to a Budget
Your spouse's assets may pass to you after their death, but you'll likely want to take steps to help ensure those assets can last for the rest of your life. The complexities of financial planning for widows and widowers can be difficult to handle during grief, though, so sticking to a structured budget may help you stay on track in terms of your financial plan. You could stick to the budget you previously lived off of for the time being, or you could make a new one that reflects your new situation.
3. Consider Working With an Attorney & Tax Expert
If you're the executor of your spouse's estate, you may have to probate their will. An attorney can help guide you through this process and take on some of the burden of figuring out the process, which often involves documentation and paperwork that's required by government and financial institutions.
Similarly, inheriting assets can trigger a number of tax consequences that may be difficult to navigate. A tax expert might be able to help you understand the specific tax implications of your situation and help you make a plan for managing any taxes you may owe (or that your spouse's estate may owe).
4. Contact Insurance Companies
If your spouse had life insurance naming you as the beneficiary, you will likely need to contact the insurance company and submit paperwork and a proof of death to receive the death benefit. A financial representative can then help you through the process of claiming your benefit.
If your spouse was employed, you may also want to reach out to their employer, as many workplaces provide life insurance benefits as well.
5. Review Your Investments
If you received a lump sum of cash from your spouse after their death — whether it was a life insurance death benefit or simply a bank account that was in their name — you may want to consider your options. That may mean reinvesting the money, or it could mean contributing to savings accounts you already have.
Depending on your financial goals, consider contacting a financial representative, who can help you take a closer look at your financial situation. They may be able to help you navigate life insurance, investments, and other things like required minimum distributions (or RMDs), which might be required if you inherited something like an IRA from your spouse.
Planning your finances after the loss of a spouse can be a tough process, but these five considerations may help you get on the right track and stay there.