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  • Mike Komara

7 Financial Tips for Widows: Managing Money after a Traumatic Loss

Losing a spouse is one of the most traumatic life events anyone will face. In addition to the grief and pain widows face upon losing a spouse, death triggers an avalanche of financial tasks that need to be addressed.

Widows facing daunting financial considerations need sound, trusted financial advice. Below are 7 financial tips for widows.

1. Take Your Time

While there are financial issues to address, they do not need to be done immediately. Making decisions while in the midst of grieving and mourning your loved one is not wise. Your brain and decision-making can be clouded and rushing through choices can end up in costly mistakes.

Hold off on the major decisions. Instead, focus on those that have more immediacy – your monthly cash flow, paying the bills, filing for death benefits, and ensuring you have cash liquidity.

2. Build Your Team

As you sort through your finances, you want a team of professionals you trust to guide you, help you make decisions, and have your best interests at hand. Ideally, your team will include:

  • A financial advisor that can assess your current financial situation, build a financial plan for you, assess risks and help create an estate plan

  • An attorney to guide you through the probate process, draft and review estate planning documents, update your will and powers of attorney and sort through other legal matters you may have

  • A certified public accountant to manage estate tax obligations, advise on tax-related matters, and file tax returns

3. Gather Necessary Documents

Before making major decisions, it will be necessary to gather documents that may be in your spouse’s name, your name, or both. Among the necessary documents are:

  • Estate planning documents, such as your will and trusts

  • Retirement account documents

  • Bank statements

  • Business ownership statements

  • Insurance policies

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates

4. Manage Life Insurance and Survivor Benefits

Life insurance policies usually come from either an employer or an insurance agent. You can contact the company’s human resources office or the agent to start the paperwork to move the process along.

If your spouse had a pension plan, it is possible you will qualify for survivor benefits, which would allow you to continue to receive your spouse’s monthly pension benefits for the rest of your life.

Social Security benefits may also apply. If you have reached retirement age at the time of your spouse’s death, you can receive 100 percent of their Social Security benefits. You may also be eligible for a one-time Social Security death benefit.

If your spouse was a military veteran, your Veterans Administration office can help determine if you are eligible for survivor benefits.

In all cases, it is important not to cash any checks before talking to a financial advisor.

5. Handle Probate Matters

If your spouse’s estate did not have a named beneficiary, it will have to pass through probate. The executor will initiate the process, which is overseen by a probate court. The process can be lengthy and includes filing a petition with the court, notifying beneficiaries and creditors, and inventorying property.

After your spouse’s debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

6. Consider Your Housing Arrangements

Housing can be a very emotional consideration after a spouse’s death. You may want to remain in the home and pay it off with the death benefits you receive. You may worry about being lonely and consider moving in with a child.

Housing considerations are major financial decisions. Moving out of a marital home can also trigger additional grieving and a sense of loss. There are also mortgage and tax considerations.

These are not decisions that need to be rushed and you should evaluate the financial, social, and emotional impact of any decisions.

7. Get Support

Above all else, know that you do not need to face these financial matters alone. At Solas Wealth, we provide wealth management advice to people in these circumstances. Contact one of our experienced wealth managers and schedule a meeting to discuss what matters to you.