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Financial Tips for When Death Happens

This is a large complex topic that often is the biggest burden after a death. Finances can be a challenge and often a point of contention in marriage and life. After a death, it can explode in your face or provide a soft cushion for security. This article is not intended to be all inclusive nor are we financial experts. Please do see a trusted, vetted professional for your personal finances. This article is intended to be a set of things we’ve learned along the way both before and after our spouses deaths. We hope you find this useful and share with anyone who may be in this situation.

Please know that no matter what, things will get easier with time. It may feel bleak now but the clouds will part and the sun will shine again. 

For those who have not yet entered widowhood:
“If you are able to plan ahead, become as knowledgeable as you can so you can withstand the firestorm you are engulfed in. Having a written plan is ideal. Knowing account details for personal finances and investments.“ words from Teresa’s financial advisor.

Recognize this is an emotional time and emotional decisions lack logic.  Financial decisions need logic…so do the best you can and …

#1 – Focus on you and your loved ones

#2 –  Put off major financial decisions for at least 6 months to a year.

  • This is solid advice and Teresa’s financial advisor agrees. Grief is not a great time to make long lasting financial decisions.

#3 –  Find your financial papers
( if you are planning ahead – placing these in a fireproof box is an excellent idea)

  • Banking – checking, savings, money market, CD
  • Investments – 401K, Mutual Funds, stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Insurance policies
  • Estate documents

#4 Determine your financial options 

  • What is your monthly budget
  • What expenses can you cut
  • How and when are bills paid? 
    • Online, checks, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • Can you use life insurance to pay for immediate financial needs?
    • Like house, car, debt expenses

Some financial items to keep in mind

  • Knowing account details for personal finances and investments
  • Open communication with spouse about plan, budgets, beneficiaries is useful
  • Be aware of payments, penalties, tax treatment and loads for any finances you may have
  • Named beneficiaries – keep these updated and you can avoid probate and be paid directly and quickly.
  • Plan ahead for 3-6 months of expenses/income to help weather the storm
  • Do NOT borrow from your 401K – detrimental to your retirement and has unfavorable expenses
  • IRAs & 401K plans protect you from creditors and are not part of a bankruptcy
  • Use care with credit cards and extra credit cards
  • If your name is not on a credit card in many states you aren’t responsible for any debt. You cannot use that card after death. 

Finances can be overwhelming and burdensome even in the best of times. Grief can make this a nightmare to work through. Be aware of this and be gentle with yourself. Do what you can, and take your time. If you aren’t widowed yet, we strongly urge you to get your financial papers in order, know the details and what is where. No matter where you are in your grief journey, enlist help and consult with someone objective and knowledgeable to verify your plans  meets your financial goals and needs. 

What have you learned about finances and death? 

Please, let us know your thoughts, comment, and share.

Jeni & Teresa

Jeni and I would love for you to share story. We would love to learn from you.  SHARE YOUR STORY