Welcome to part two of our video series where we are dealing with a not-so-sexy topic – but one that is important for you and your spouse. We are talking about potentially one of the most stressful moments in life – when your spouse passes away.
It’s gut-wrenching and almost to the point of not even wanting to bear the thought of what that moment may feel like. But none of us are promised tomorrow – life does not play favorites. So it is critical to make sure that there are not ANY additional stressors during this time for the surviving spouse – especially when it comes to your pocketbook.
Dr. John Maxwell says it best; Proactive people focus on preparing reactive people to focus on repairs. Check out the first video in this series “3 steps to take right now to financially prepare for the death of a spouse” so that when the time comes, you can focus on repairing your heart, not your finances. Now listen, first, and know that the most important thing is to surround yourself with family and friends to support you during this time.
Yes, there are financial matters you will need your attention to, but those things are not the highest priority in the days or weeks after losing your spouse. Allow for time to rest. Focus only on making the decisions you have to make during this time. Remember, big decisions, especially financial should not be made when emotions are high.
In this video, we will look specifically at the first 5 things you need to do with your finances after losing your spouse. So after taking a few weeks to process this major life change and you feel up to the challenge, you can use these steps as your guide.
1. Contact Your Dream Team – Attorney, CPA & Financial Advisor Widow story.
The first thing you will want to do is contact what I like to refer to as your dream team- your attorney, your CPA, and your financial advisor. If you don’t have these individuals present in your life today, make it a priority to get some recommendations from trusted family and friends and get the relationship started.
Now I know that attorney often gets a bad rap, and they should, but in his scenario- they will be one of your allies. Your attorney will help you understand both the legal and financial laws in your state, to ensure your assets stay protected. And believe me, you will want your ASS-sets to be protected during this life event.
Your CPA or tax accountant should be the second number in your Rolodex – and yes I did just reference a Rolodex – I guess maybe that shows you my age. But your CPA will be another key ally to ensure you fully understand the tax implications of losing your spouse. There are very specific ways that taxes can be completed to ensure you are reducing UncleSam’s share.
And I don’t know about you, but Uncle Samis NOT someone I want to give any more than he already takes. Last but not least, contact your financial advisor – someone like me or one of our trusted advisors here at Oak Harvest Financial Group. Your financial advisor will link arms with you to ensure your full finances are in order including your investment accounts, beneficiaries, and more.
This dream team will be a lifesaver for you during this emotional time. Lean on their expert guidance and it will eliminate many of the mistakes I have seen other’s make by trying to do it on their own.
2. Locate Your Will & Collect Copies Of the Death Certificate The second step is to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate – likely one copy for each company you have any financial connection to PLUS a few extra copies for your files.
The death certificate will be required to transfer assets or update the ownership of the assets with your spouse no longer being alive. Many times you can order the death certificate directly through the funeral home, or you can visit your city’s records department and even send a notarized request to a company called VitalChek for copies to be mailed to you.
There is a small fee for copies of death certificates, but it won’t break the bank. And these can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to arrive, so just be patient and focus on healing your heart while you wait for these to arrive.
3. Notify Important Organizations About YourSpouse’s DeathThe third step will require you to make a few phone calls and maybe even some in-person visits to organizations connected to your spouse.
The first entity to notify is the social security department – especially if there is an active benefit being paid for the deceased spouse. In many cases, the funeral home will help report your spouse’s death to the social security department, but you will want to be 100% sure. You don’t want to get paid a benefit after your spouse’s death that will have to be repaid by you.
And there are also certain cases where a death benefit can be activated for the surviving spouse, so make sure you are talking to your dream team of advisors about this step. You don’t want to leave any money on the table that the government owes you!
The second entity to notify is the VeteransAdministration – if your spouse was a veteran. Any VA benefits that they were being received could be transferable to the surviving spouse- again consult with your dream team of advisors. The third entity to notify is any insurance company connected to your spouse – both for life and health insurance. You will want to gather all the claim forms required to submit to start pushing paper to those companies. The sooner you start this process, the faster you may see those benefits show up for you.
Last, notify all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian & Transunion. Request that a “death notice” be put on the credit reports to prevent fraud or someone trying to steal your deceased spouse’s identity. Whew….are you still with me?I know this may feel like a lot but we have resources I’m going to share with you in a moment that will help it all come together. But let’s keep moving along.
4. Notify Current & Past EmployersThe fourth step is to notify the human resource departments of the current and past employees of your spouse.
You might be thinking…yeah, makes sense to contact their current employer, but really…past employers? You would be surprised how some retirement,401(k), or pension plans from past employees are not transferred and there could literally be money just sitting there for you as the beneficiary.
Don’t assume and just make the call to be sure. And don’t forget about yourself – notify your own employer if you are still working during this life event as it may trigger benefit adjustments that you need to make.
5. Update Asset OwnershipStep 5…it’s time to update asset ownership. This step can take a while if you have to contact multiple companies, visit local financial institutions and work with your financial advisor team – so go easy on yourself in getting this step done – it simply will just take a while.
You will want to for sure have the death certificate in hand as it will be required for any asset ownership transfers. Here are some examples of assets you will want to update: Property titles – this includes your home title, vehicle titles, and even notifying the county recorder for tax purposes.
Bank accounts – a quick visit to your financial institution will allow you to update any joint accounts and “payable on death” beneficiaries for yourself. Investment accounts – work with your financial advisor to get all your investments updated including your beneficiaries. And I’m sure there might be others you need to consider – just make sure to have that full comprehensive list in your financial binder to start contacting when it’s time.
Alright – we made it!I know that seems like a lot of steps, butI can assure you that having this plan will help eliminate stress during one of the most difficult times in your life. And as I shared before, the MOST important thing after you lose your spouse is to take time to grieve and have a support system around you.
Allow yourself the time you need to walk through the loss in a healthy way and then you can take all the financial steps you need to take after a few weeks. And to make it easy for you, we have developed a FREE checklist you can download below this video, to keep in your finance binder so that in the midst of all the emotions during this event, you’ll know exactly what you need to do.
Thanks for diving in with us! And in our next video, we are actually going to spend some time with a well-known and respected estate planner that will be sharing some golden nuggets about how to set up your estate to ensure it’s protected and passed down to the RIGHT people. Believe me, no one wants to risk Uncle Eddie’s 3rd cousin being the heir to your assets instead of your own family!
See you in the next video!