Following the loss of a spouse, individuals typically reach out to an attorney immediately. What they may not know is that it can be just as important to speak with a financial professional right away also. Many don’t realize the positive impact this can have on not only addressing their immediate financial concerns, but also their long-term well-being.
Your financial advisor can provide resources and support for your financial situation as well as yourself. Here is why you’ll want to reach out as soon as possible following the loss of a spouse.
Prioritizing Your Financial To-Dos
Following a loss, the list of to-dos often feels never-ending and overwhelming. You may not even be sure where to start or what questions to ask — and that’s okay. Your financial advisor can help you identify and prioritize your next action items, and make sure nothing is being missed during this highly vulnerable time.
Together, you can sort out your to-dos by what is essential and needs immediate attention (life insurance, tax preparation, notifying relevant agencies or accounts), what needs to happen soon (updating your will and account beneficiaries), and what can wait until later to decide (such as paying off debt or choosing where to live). Think of it as triage for all the tasks you’re facing. Going through this exercise with a financial advisor can leave you feeling more confident and in control.
Remove Emotion from the Equation
An event like this, whether sudden or expected, is emotionally taxing. As you focus on healing and taking care of yourself, it can be incredibly valuable to have an experienced professional as a sounding board for financial and technical matters.
Research shows that when we are under stress, our decision-making skills are compromised[i]. During life-changing events like death, these decisions can have significant consequences on our personal and financial lives. A financial advisor can provide clarity and advice that balances where you are today with considerations for the future, all while helping you navigate emotionally charged decisions.
For example, surviving spouses may think they need to sell the family home immediately following the death of their spouse. But selling a home is a big financial decision that could add even more stress to the situation. Depending on the circumstances, it might be recommended that a new widow or widower take a pause for a while to determine if it is really the right move. The goal is for the client to avoid making irrevocable decisions during a difficult time that lead to regret later on.
Reevaluate Your Financial Standings
It’s likely that your financial situation will change following the loss of a spouse. Even if you were both in retirement, you may have to readjust your portfolio and financial plan accordingly.
Your financial advisor can help you identify your sources of income and take inventory of your assets to determine how expenses will be paid. The goal is to give you peace of mind about covering expenses in the short term. Eventually, you will work together to develop a long-term plan for the future that includes investments and tax planning.
And Finally, Serve as Your Support System
Doubts and worry can arise following a death. You might be asking questions like, “Will I be okay?” or “Is there anything I’ve forgotten?”
But remember: A good financial advisor can be a key member of your support system and provide a great sense of relief during a difficult time. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength and self-care. Your advisor can remind you of the incredible work you have accomplished together so far and help plan for what’s ahead.
At Northstar Financial Planning, we are an all-women team of experienced financial professionals dedicated to helping recently widowed or divorced women navigate their financial lives. We are here to help reduce the financial stress women experience following death or divorce and serve as your trusted guide along the journey ahead. If you would like to learn more, schedule time to talk with our team.