“Dad Loved Us, But He Left Mom in a Mess.”

 April 29, 2013

 

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Hopefully, this will never happen to your family, but take a moment and visualize a woman sitting with her adult child at the dining room table, sifting through equally heavy parts of grief, emotion and mounds of papers and files, trying to figure out how to navigate the enormous financial decisions that confront them. 


Just days earlier, the woman’s husband suddenly passed away. In his efforts to take care of the family, he had taken care of all of the finances, while she took care of almost everything else.

 

“Your father really loved us,” the woman says. “But he left us in the dark. How are we going to figure all of this out?”


Now, unintentionally, grief and loss are compounded.

 

No one ever thinks this kind of thing will happen to them, but we all know that unexpected tragedies can occur. And when the surviving spouse does not have a working grasp of the family’s financial situation and resources, a bad situation becomes much worse. In the midst of grieving, the spouse may face questions such as:

 

• Where does the money to pay bills come from?
• Where are the important insurance policy and financial documents kept?
• How do I sift through the clutter of all the confusing financial moving parts?
• To whom do I turn for financial advice?

 

To avoid placing yourself or your spouse in this situation in the future, here’s how you can prepare today:

 

• Have one document that summarizes the most important information your family needs to have in case something happens to the more financially knowledgeable spouse. (For a copy of the document we use with our clients, click HERE.)
• Have a single file or secure web page that gathers and summarizes all of your financial accounts (checking, brokerage, 401(k), mortgage, etc.) into a simple, one-page summary of your family’s net worth. Ideally, this should update dynamically as account values change.
• Have one secure storage place for important documents such as wills, insurance policies, etc. Virtual, cloud-based storage of the scanned documents is an ideal way to protect the information from fire, theft or misplacement.
• Have a support group of family and trusted friends with whom you can bounce financially-related ideas, thoughts and issues.

 

Again, we hope nothing like our initial scenario ever happens to you. But making time to plan for the possibility can be one of the most loving acts of kindness spouses can give each other.

 

PARTNERSINWEALTH has helped financially successful families prepare for issues such as these since 1984, giving them confidence that comes with control of their financial lives. To learn more about ensuring that your finances continue to be a positive legacy for your family, not an agonizing source of stress during an already difficult time, please contact Jim Waters, CFP®, at PARTNERSINWEALTH : 713.964.4028 or jrw@partnersinwealth.com.