Death is unavoidable. We spend most of our lives fearing it and trying not to think about it.
However, as a spouse or head of a household, it’s your responsibility to think about death when making any life decisions. Whenever we buy life or health insurance or make a will, we do so because we have to consider how death can affect life and finances.
In the unfortunate event that you become a widow, you will need to make a lot of decisions immediately or sooner than later. Making funeral arrangements are just the beginning of such decisions.
Here are five decisions recent widows must make to safeguard their financial future.
Get emotional support
The most important way to care for your financial future as a recent widow is to get help from a mental health professional.
Losing your life partner is a shock that may only start to register in your mind days, months, and even years after their death. After the funeral, encountering an empty house and adjusting to life as a widow may become a soul-shattering event when reality sets in.
You have a family that depends on you to keep it together. And before you ever consider remarrying sometime in the near future, you have to process the pain you are experiencing now.
Get help from a mental health professional. You should carry the memory of your former spouse with you.
But you won’t have a life if you always carry the suffocating pain you initially felt when you became a widow.
Wait a while before making any serious financial decisions
Delay for several months any life-altering financial decisions.
As a widow, you may need to change jobs, relocate, or make serious decisions for your family. You may have lost an income that dramatically changes your and your family’s lifestyle.
Take the time to emotionally heal and strategically plan for your next moves. Don’t make a hasty decision to distract yourself from your pain which could have severe financial consequences for you later on in life.
Collect important documents
Don’t wait too long before taking an inventory of every important document from your former spouse’s personal and business life.
After your spouse’s death, collect documents such as:
- Marriage certificate
- Death certificate
- Birth certificate
- Private or employer-sponsored health insurance policies
- Life insurance policies
- Bank account data
- Documents related to investments and assets
- House, car, and property titles
- I.D. cards
- Tax documents
- Accountant paperwork
- Financial power of attorney
You will need originals and certified copies of these documents for the funeral home, to transfer ownership of investments or properties in your name, to legally change your name, to gain access to insurance benefits, to work with an attorney, and more.
It will be hard to focus, but you must collect every important document that jointly concerned you both or your deceased spouse. Your financial future could depend on it.
Contact social security
If your spouse was receiving Social Security at the time of their death, then you may be eligible for a one-time $255 death benefit. You may also be eligible to continue receiving your deceased spouse’s benefits as a widow.
Additionally, you may be able to assign your child as an S.S. beneficiary to financially guard against your own sudden death.
There are strict conditions concerning such arrangements, so make sure you contact Social Security to learn more.
Contact an attorney
Consult with an attorney that specializes in taxes or estate taxes to strategize your next life moves.
You don’t want to make any legal, financial, or life decisions that could unwittingly make life harder for yourself.