The thought of becoming a widow is something that most women avoid simply because it is too painful. However, it is a possibility and there are things that a woman should do to prepare.
One of the greatest blessings and gifts that a husband can give his wife is making financial preparations for her before he becomes ill or dies suddenly. A sad fact is that for most widows those kinds of preparations have not been made and she can find herself left with hospital bills, funeral bills, one less income or no income at all, a home and/or cars not paid for, credit card debts or other untold debts, the expense of children to raise and upcoming college costs, etc. I would urge a wife right now to have a serious talk with her husband about making plans for a possible demise.
There are certain steps that must be taken financially in advance of widowhood and the most important of those is to find a personal certified financial planner who can help a married couple make wise financial decisions, but also has a heart for widows and has experience in dealing with widows. My own personal financial adviser is Ben Phillips, CFP. Not only is he my adviser, but he has become my trustworthy friend that I can go to any time with any questions.
It would be wise to locate and have the following papers in a safe place:
- Wills and letters of instruction
- Trust documents and powers of attorney
- Joint tax returns for the past 5 years
- Most recent W-2 forms from his employer
- Any outstanding loans
- Records of employee benefits such as retirement accounts or stock option plans and any additional insurance policies like medical, homeowner, auto, disability, or umbrella policies. Be sure to include all policy numbers and contact information for all of these.
- Real estate documents like titles, deeds, leases, rental agreements, the more recent mortgage or home loan statements
- Financial statements including checking, savings, CD, brokerage, retirement accounts, safe deposit box and credit cards
- Stock certificates and current statements of mutual fund holdings or other investments
- List of credit cards and names under which they are listed
- Receipts for major purchases and warranties
- Business partnership agreements
- Car titles, registrations, loan and lease agreements
- Official government papers such as a military discharge, if applicable, and social security card
- Birth, death, and marriage certificates
- Pre and post-nuptial agreements
Your certified personal financial adviser not only should be able to help you make preparations, but he or she should know all of the myriad of things that need to be taken care of afterwards and be able to guide you through each process step by step. You need someone like that whom you can completely trust not to take advantage of you because you will find yourself in such a state of shock and “widow fog” that you will be unable to think clearly or even remember what you are told. This is a very vulnerable time and you do not want someone that will lead you astray and defraud you out of any money.
In order to settle your loved one‘s affairs and to establish claims for benefits, you‘ll need to have all of the above documents in order. Work now to get them together in a safe place so that you can find them. If you are a widow, take care of getting all of your paperwork in order and put it all in a safe place. Be sure to tell your child or closest relative where these papers can be located.