ADULT FAMILY ISSUES
In the midst of grief and sorrow, a bereaved spouse has important decisions to make
This is a short list of financial considerations for widows, widowers, and their families:
MANAGING FINANCES AFTER LOSS
In the midst of grief and sorrow, a bereaved spouse has important decisions to make and responsibilities to manage. This is a short list of financial considerations for widows, widowers and their families.
As the surviving spouse, you will need a number of documents in order to finalize the financial affairs of your loved one. When you receive the death certificate for your spouse, be sure to make several copies, as you will need to provide proof of death when closing or changing ownership of accounts. You will also need your spouse’s Social Security number, your marriage certificate, life insurance policies, bank accounts, creditors and a copy of your spouse’s will or estate plan. Gather these documents and associated paperwork and set up folders to help you keep track of them.
SETTLE THE ESTATE
If your spouse has a will, that document will determine the distribution of property. When there is no will, the probate court will decided who will get what property. The laws regarding community and separate property vary from state to state, and settlement of a larger estate is usually more complicated. Consult with an attorney who specialized in estate laws for complex cases.
TRANSFER OWNERSHIP OR CLOSE ACCOUNTS
You will need to notify banks, loan companies and other creditors of your spouse’s demise by producing a copy of the death certificate and providing other identification. If your spouse owned an IRA, you will need to determine if it makes more sense to roll over the assets into your own IRA or keep them where they are. If you are named as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or annuity, you may have choices as to how you receive those assets. Consult a financial advisor to learn more about your options.
PAY THE BILLS
It can be difficult to face a task as mundane as paying bills when you are experiencing a personal tragedy. A trusted friend or family member may be able to help with the task, or to remind you when bills are due to keep you on track. If you are unable to pay some of your bills immediately, contact your creditors and explain your situation. Ignoring bills will lead to late fees and may damage your credit rating.
As a surviving spouse, you are responsible for filing taxes for your loved one. You need to file in order to receive a refund if taxes were overpaid during the year or to pay up if taxes are owed. Failure to file may result in penalties or even a lien on the estate. The IRS provides instructions on how to file on behalf of a decedent. If you have any doubts or questions, consult a tax professional.
SORT OUT FINANCES AND FUTURE PLANNING
Do not face your financial decisions alone. This is the time to engage the services of a professional financial advisor, and to plan with your family. An advisor can help you look at your overall financial picture and determine your next best steps. In addition to helping with immediate financial tasks such as rolling over a retirement account, an advisor can also help you address concerns about your future, including creating and sustaining your income.
IT’S A TEAM EFFORT
If you have concerns about needs and expectations of family members, a mediated meeting may be the best way to have a productive conversation and to make plans for your care and estate. Please give me a call if I can be of service. I will help you determine who should be present, coordinate the time and place of meeting, prepare an agenda of subjects to discuss, and be present to guide the discussion and to assure that the goals of the meeting are met.
Presented by Anna J. Niemann, Pro-Active Mediation (916) 799-4675
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