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A widow’s guide on financial planning

It’s hard enough that you had to deal with your husband’s death, making funeral arrangements and greeting relatives during your time of grief. You’re a widow now, and as overwhelming as it may seem, you must carry on with your life. That will include getting your finances in order and updating your estate plan.

Oftentimes among married couples, just one of them has the sole responsibility of dealing with family finances and estate planning. It may be the husband or it may be the wife, but when one of them dies, it leaves the other in quite a bind. Suddenly, the surviving spouse is forced to become a quick study in all things related to personal finance and estate planning. How do I write a check? How do I contact creditors? Who is my broker?

In many cases, widows become paralyzed with fear from lack of knowledge. For many, this will be their first time dealing with personal finances, investments and estate planning. You’re forced to embrace this new lifestyle that’s filled with financial and emotional implications.

List of things you need to do

Here are some of the things that you should promptly do:

  • Seek the advice of an experienced estate-planning attorney. Get references from trusted friends, family members, business contacts or co-workers.
  • Transfer all joint property such as your house as well as brokerage accounts into your name.
  • Revise your will. This may include creating trusts, living wills, durable powers of attorney related to health care. You want to be prepared, and an updated will may make things easier for your surviving family.
  • Find a good accountant since you now will be filing as single. You will need advice on tax planning.
  • Get a financial planner. This person should be someone who you trust and are comfortable with, can easily explain investments, and understands your financial needs.
  • Consider gaining support through a bereavement group. A widow’s grief lingers. Talking about matters with therapists, counselors and people who have experienced your situation may help you.
  • Consider relocating. Perhaps too many memories and reminders exist in the longtime family home. Moving into a smaller abode may create a fresh beginning. You can more easily manage upkeep and taxes in a smaller home or condominium, too.

No one expects to be thrust in this scenario. However, if you become a widow, it’s important to learn as much as you can about finances and estate planning on your own as well as turning to people you trust.

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