This article is not going to be about any of the proposals coming out of Washington, the really poor jobs report on May 7th, or why the Phillies still need relief pitching after years of having the same problem. These are all small issues in comparison to the subject herein.
This issue is how to proceed if your spouse passes away before you do. It is clear that you and your spouse need to have things in place before being in that most difficult circumstance, and below we list some considerations after that happens.
I have been in this business for many years and have helped clients prepare for and deal with something for which none of us is emotionally prepared; however, we can be financially ready. This checklist is not complete, as every circumstance is different, but it is intended to be a good starting point for you and your loved ones.
- If you do not have a Will already done for both of you, get one. Particularly if you have minor children and/or a significant estate, this is essential. You should know where the Will is located.
- I suggest that you consider speaking with an attorney for help in settling the estate, particularly if your spouse has died without a Will.
- The one thing that is a must is to get certified copies of the death certificate as soon as you can do so. The funeral home generally can do this for you.
You may also need to present your marriage certificate.
- If your deceased spouse has health insurance, life insurance, and any other plans through an employer, call the employer.
If the medical insurance is through your spouse, then how long will it cover you if they pass?
- You or the funeral home will need to contact social security to get the changes made as needed. You will lose the lower payment amount.
- Know the life and other insurances your spouse has and call the insurance companies to file a claim.
- Call any credit card, utility, or other services that your spouse’s name appeared on. You may also want to get a credit report so you don’t miss anything. It is useful to tell them to note that the spouse is deceased and no new credit should be issued for them. Note that you may not be responsible for debt held only in your spouse’s name, depending on your state of residence.
- If needed, change your emergency contacts and your own account beneficiaries.
- After your loved one passes, do not do anything in a rush. You should wait, let your emotions at least be less raw, and then discuss your ideas with someone who can be detached in their thinking. Rash decisions are many times the least effective. This may be the most important point of all.
In previous communications, we indicated that you should have all of your important information located in a Personal Financial Organizer, which is available on our website, www.asfinancialservices.com. Perhaps that is a good place to start!
As always, call us if you wish to discuss this further.
by Ronald Donato, Jr., CFP®, MBA
Director of Financial Services