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Money Cents

Getting Your Finances In Order After The Loss Of A Spouse
By Shelley Phillips-Mills
Mar 28, 2005 - 10:19:00 AM

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There are many tough subjects we avoid thinking about and the death of a spouse could be one of them. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, almost half of the women over age 65 are widows. Nearly 700,000 women lose their husbands each year and will be widows for an average of 14 years.

While losing someone you love is obviously emotionally difficult, the loss of a spouse may have substantial impact on your financial situation as well. Here are a few considerations you should think about in order to get your finances in order after a loss:

Locate all important documents. Determine the location of key documents such as wills, trust documents, insurance policies, deeds, stock and bond certificates and bank and brokerage statements. Having these handy will help in sorting through what documents need to be re-titled and reviewed.

Update beneficiary designations and estate plan. At a time like this it is important to ensure you have the appropriate beneficiaries listed on items such as your IRA, retirement plans, employee benefits and life insurance policies. In addition, you should have your attorney update your will and estate documents to make sure your intentions are reflected.

Complete a net worth statement. A comprehensive look at your current assets and liabilities – what you have and what you owe – will help you have a better look at your financial situation. You may have some cash coming in from insurance policies and you may also have some debts that need to be taken care of.

Review your asset allocation. Once you take a snapshot of your finances, it is important to make sure your investments reflect your new situation. You may need to re-evaluate your risk tolerance now and your need for liquid assets may have changed. Your financial consultant can help you take a look at your portfolio and make any changes necessary.

Inform children of changes to financial structure. Your children – and possibly even grandchildren – should know about any changes you make to your estate plan, will or beneficiary designations. It is important to keep them apprised of your financial decisions – not only do they have a vested interest, but they may also be able to help you with any difficult decisions.

Review your investment portfolio. Look closely at your investments to see if they match your financial goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. What may have worked for you as a couple may not be the best choice for you as an individual.  Your financial consultant can help in evaluating any shifts necessary in your investments.

Check your credit reports. You’ll want to get copies of your credit reports and ensure they are accurate. If there are any mistakes, it is important to correct them at once. You may also want to cancel some of your credit cards if you no longer have a need for them. This could help decrease the chances of negatively affecting your credit rating.

Establish an emergency cash fund. If you don’t have one already, now is the time to establish an account that allows you to access your cash at any time. You may need to tap into this account should you have any unexpected expenses and it will provide you with a bit of freedom.

As you can see, there are several things you can do even during this difficult period to make sure your finances are properly taken care of. A forward-looking plan will help you establish a solid financial future. If you would like to receive the publication, Putting the Pieces Together: A Survivor’s Guide to Settling an Estate, by A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., please contact financial consultant, Shelley Phillips-Mills in Bangor at 800-947-5456.

This article was provided by A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., Member SIPC.


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