Losing your spouse is quite possibly the most trying time in anyone’s life. Compounding this is the fact that several major financial decisions loom on the horizon. If you just lost your partner, it’s vital that you retain your financial smarts during this unimaginably difficult period. During the grieving period, it’s important to think about one’s finances. Being smart about this will, in turn, allow you to grieve in peace, if you will. Here’s some advice.
Figure Out Social Security and Budget
How you budget moving forward will depend, in large part, on your Social Security situation. It’s vital you figure this out ASAP. If you and your spouse already collected Social Security, you will now only receive the higher payout of the two (not both). Also, note that if not, you can begin receiving benefits earlier (at age 60) if you are a widow(er). Check out this informative survivors planner from the Social Security Administration.
Obtain a Lot of Death Certificates
NextAvenue.org suggests obtaining up to 20 copies of your spouse’s death certificate. That’s because you will need them to secure money and close accounts.
“You’ll need to send this document to the Social Security Administration, credit card companies, your mortgage holder, and insurers to verify the death and either change the name on accounts or collect money that is due to you,” says the site.
And while we’re talking about collecting money, remember that it’s on you to file for any death benefit linked to any annuity, veterans' benefits, and/or life insurance benefits.
Start Working on Your Credit Score ASAP
The death of a spouse can affect your credit in a number of ways. For one, you may fall behind on paying bills if you weren’t used to handling them (which can lower your score). It’s good advice to have a copy of your spouse’s credit report handy so you can know any open lines of credit they had that you must now deal with. Furthermore, you may not have great credit in the first place if you mainly relied on your spouse’s credit for bills and larger purchases. If that’s the case, according to Consumers Advocate, you must rebuild and repair your credit immediately.
Wait to Start Fresh with Your Checking Accounts
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) suggests that you wait to change the information on your joint checking and savings accounts. Here’s the reason: There’s a strong possibility that you’ll continue to receive checks in your spouse’s name for at least a year following their passing, and changing your bank account might complicate matters.
Hold Your Horses
The immediate aftermath of losing a spouse is no time to make major financial decisions, much less ones that would significantly alter your savings structure, investment portfolio, or any other important aspect of your personal finances. Experts warn not to get sucked into the trap of making swift decisions and trying to pay things off quickly. It may seem like the smart thing to do, but it can actually leave survivors low on liquid funds — which may be needed to handle many post-death expenses that could arise.
Also, beware of taking bad advice; everyone will have some. At least for a while, don’t make any moves based on what your friends and family say. Don’t switch financial advisors — just coast for a while and get through the worst part of the grieving process.
It’s not fair that you lose a loved one and it’s not fair that you are forced to think about money at a time like this — but that’s life. Unfortunately, death brings a load of financial considerations in its wake. The best overarching piece of advice for seniors who just lost a spouse is to simply handle what has to be handled and nothing more. If you cover those essentials, every other financial decision can wait until later.
For additional details please check out thebeareaved.org