Loss of a Spouse


How Women Can Move Forward Financially

The loss of a spouse can be a devastating, life-changing event. Due to longer life expectancies, women are more likely to face this situation. Approximately 38% of women age 65 and older are widows compared to 12% of men, and approximately 12% of women under age 65 are widows*.

Becoming a widow can be one of the most difficult challenges a woman must face. The number of financial and legal matters that have to be settled in the weeks and months following your loved one’s death can be immense. Don’t hesitate to ask family or friends for help.

First, take a deep breath
Before you start handling the financial end of things, though, make sure to consider your own needs. The period following the death of a spouse can be a blur of emotions–shock, sadness, despair, anger, denial. It’s important to allow yourself the freedom to feel however you want to feel. You don’t owe it to anyone to feel or act in a certain way.

The short term: steps to take

Locate important documents and financial records. These include your spouse’s will and other estate planning documents (e.g., trust), insurance policies, bank and brokerage statements, stock and bond certificates, deeds, Social Security number, birth and marriage certificates, and certified copies of the death certificate.

Seek professional advice to settle the estate and file tax returns. Getting expert help from an attorney, accountant, financial or tax professional can be invaluable during this stressful time. Consider bringing a family member or friend with you to meetings so you will have an extra pair of eyes and ears to process information.

Evaluate short-term expenses. You may have immediate expenses to take care of, such as funeral costs or outstanding debts your husband may have incurred. Make sure you have one or more credit cards in your name, and when you can, order a free copy of your credit report and review it for accuracy.

Avoid hasty decisions. Don’t spend money impulsively. Don’t cave in to pressure to sell or give away your spouse’s possessions. Find out where you stand financially before you make any large purchases, sell property, or loan money to others.

Moving ahead: the big picture
After the initial legal and financial matters related to your spouse’s death are taken care of, you might find it helpful to seek a financial professional who can help you by evaluating your insurance coverage, establishing a budget, update your beneficiaries, reviewing your investments, and updating your own estate planning documents.

As you work with a financial professional, make sure she is responsive to what you say you need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you understand all your options before making important decisions.

As you move forward with your life, remember that at times it may be two steps forward and one step back. Take comfort in the fact that you are doing the best you can to make the best decisions–financial and otherwise–for yourself and your family.

*U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey

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About Catherine Allen

With over 28 years of experience in the financial industry, Catherine is deeply compassionate and is driven to educate and empower people to make informed decisions in their financial lives. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Practitioner trained to develop and implement comprehensive financial plans for individuals, businesses, and organizations. Catherine believes a financial plan is not just a snapshot but instead a moving picture that needs constant reviewing and tweaking to keep it on track. You can reach Catherine at [email protected], or by calling 856-810-7701. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. LPL Financial

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