Estate Planning Reduces Practical Issues at Loss

If you or someone you love has experienced the loss of a spouse, you may be familiar with the tremendous difficulty of handling estate and financial affairs while coping with the grief that accompanies such a loss.

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During the challenging time immediately following the death of a husband or wife, a few simple steps may help a surviving spouse regain his or her financial bearings.

Specific Potentially Helpful Estate Planning Steps

  1. Keep cash reserves on hand. Cash can help cover funeral costs and ongoing living expenses until you feel ready to address larger financial decisions.
  2. Make a budget. Household finances can change with the death of a spouse. Draft a simple, flexible budget to begin tracking everyday income and expenses. It can be revised regularly as needs change.
  3. Take inventory. Make a detailed list of the deceased’s assets, including all investment and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and any items held in a safe-deposit box. Determine the fair market value of each asset.
  4. Obtain copies of the death certificate. It may be a good idea to make 10 to 15 copies of the death certificate and letter of testamentary because they will be required to claim Social Security benefits, life insurance, investment accounts, and other assets.
  5. Claim Social Security benefits. To receive benefits quickly, make a personal visit to the local Social Security office and sign a claim. The first check should arrive one to three months after the claim is made.
  6. Reregister accounts. Put all bank accounts and securities in the name of your estate. You may also need to re-title assets and change beneficiary designations on retirement accounts.
  7. Revise your investment strategy. In time, you may want to reevaluate your investment plan to help ensure that it meets your day-to-day needs, future goals, and risk tolerance. It may also be a good idea to delay gift giving until you have a clear picture of your financial situation.
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Estate Planning can Help Ease a Difficult Period

Losing a loved one is never easy - but losing a spouse can be both emotionally and financially trying. Using these simple guidelines may help you or someone you love better handle the stresses of this difficult time.

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