Financial Planning Considerations For A Surviving Spouse

Death is a difficult time and most people tend to shy away from its potential financial consequences until it becomes too late. Typically people shy away from dealing with estate planning issues as long as they can. Unfortunately, when the time comes, survivors have to make critical financial and legal decisions for which they may not be prepared. Moreover, for a survivor grieving the death of a loved one, the pressures of making haste decisions can be emotionally overwhelming. However, there are steps you can take today to prepare yourself for the death of a loved one.

When someone you love dies, there is a lot of confusion about what happens next for you. Below you will find financial planning considerations that you can prepare for in advance that may help you make important financial decisions when the time comes of a loved one’s death, such as concerns over honoring your spouse’s wishes and caring for yourself and your family.

Settle your spouse’s estate
Dealing with an estate transfer and settlement can be a very complicated process and potentially can drag on for an extended period of time such as a year or more. The estate settlement process includes decisions about the distribution of your spouse’s assets and how to handle liabilities such as those that come about from estate taxes. If you are named the executor of your spouse’s estate in your spouse’s will, you will be responsible for making all the financial and legal decisions related to the estate.

Before you make any decisions, the first step is to obtain a copy of your spouse’s will and death certificate. Generally, you will be able to get a copy of the will from your estate attorney that created the document since they usually retain copies. Also, you can get copies of your spouse’s death certificate through your state’s vital statistics office.

Your spouse’s death certificate is important to gain access to bank account information, transfer ownership of securities such as stocks, bonds, and the like, apply for Social Security benefits, and to collect life insurance proceeds and other benefits.

Expenses related to your estate such as outstanding loans, leases, or taxes lower the total value of your estate. Consider having a separate bank account to handle and monitor all of the incurred estate expenses. Make sure to monitor where the money is going and keep accurate records.

Paying off debt
As the executor for the estate, you are required to settle any outstanding debts that are solely in your spouse’s name such as credit card balances and other debt. You can contact any of the credit bureaus to get copies of your spouse’s outstanding debts. You should also provide the credit bureaus a copy of your spouse’s death certificate so that they remove his name from their files. Also, notify all the creditors of your spouse’s death to close all credit cards listed solely under your spouse’s name and transfer any jointly help cards to your name only.

Distributing property
Every state has a probate process and as the executor you play a critical role in the distribution and sale of estate valuables and properties according to the will and your spouse’s wishes. If the will is lacking certain information, the executor would take the responsibility in distributing the decedent’s property at his/her discretion.