Posted on April 21, 2012 by Cynthia Gossman in Financials.
Special thanks to Jason Alderman, Visa’s Senior Director of Global Financial Education, for sharing this information with us.
Losing your spouse is one of life’s most stressful events. Ironically, it’s during that time of grief, when you’re probably not thinking clearly or focusing on such matters, that you’re expected to make many important financial decisions that will impact the rest of your life.
Although there are certain actions you must take right away to ensure your current financial security, several major decisions with long-term consequences should probably be postponed until you’ve had a chance to reflect on how – and where – you want to spend the rest of your life.
If your spouse primarily handled the finances or you’re not up to the task alone, ask a trusted relative or friend to help you sort out the following information:
Gather legal and financial documents that will give a better sense of where you stand financially, including: wills, trusts and powers of attorney; mortgage and car title; tax returns; bank, loan and credit card statements; safe deposit box contents; insurance plans; and income sources.
Compile outstanding bills and monitor due dates to avoid late charges or penalties for: utilities; mortgage/rent; health, auto and homeowners insurance premiums; car, student and personal loans; and credit cards.
If your spouse was still working, contact his or her employer regarding unpaid salary, benefits, life insurance and retirement accounts. This is particularly important if they provide your health insurance.
Other critical actions to take within the first month or two include:
Contact companies where you have joint accounts and convert them to your name only. Also close any accounts that were in his or her name only that you don’t wish to maintain.
If your spouse was eligible for Social Security, you and your children may qualify for Survivor Benefits. Call (800) 772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov.
Similarly, if your spouse was a veteran, contact the VA regarding possible survivor benefits (www.vba.va.gov/survivors).
Pay attention to income tax filing dates, particularly if you file quarterly estimated taxes. While the IRS may waive penalty fees on a late filing or underpayment related to your spouse’s death, you’re still responsible for any taxes or interest owed. Call 800-829-1040 or read “Filing Late and/or Paying Late” at www.irs.gov.
Don’t make irreversible financial decisions until you’ve had a chance adjust to your new status. For example, some people rush to pay off their mortgage, only to discover later that the house is too large or they can’t afford the taxes and upkeep. Others feel pressured to move closer to family members, only to discover that they miss their former life.
Other long-range planning suggestions:
Rewrite your will and other documents that outline how you’d like your financial and health matters handled if you die, become disabled or become seriously ill.
Until you have a better handle on your new living expenses, live frugally – especially if you’re used to having two incomes.
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Grief Coach, Joy Restoration Coach, Emotion Strategist, Trainer, and Motivational Speaker
Hi, I am Cynthia. I have been where you are. I am proud of you for finding this site because that means you have reached out for help. I know how difficult that is. My passion is to walk YOUR walk with you. To companion you through the forward and backward steps and all the ones in between as you begin to heal and rediscover yourself and a new life. To LIVE well you MOURN well. To MOURN well you LOVE well. To LOVE well you LIVE well.
Cynthia's life experiences, her demeanor and education make her the perfect counselor! She is comforting but challenging; understanding and encouraging; and best of all she cares deeply about others and helping them through the challenges that life brings.
She has taught me how to move on in life and have feelings for another.. i know how it has gotten me through all the hate i had through the hard times....
Cynthia is a great listener. Her patience and experience are very helpful to grieving people who don't know how to live with this new status and life. Even though a member's loss may be very different from hers, Cynthia is able to give them some experiential perspective, and let them know that if they're willing to accept this change, they can build a happy life for themselves.
The experience of having someone there for me who understood made a major difference in my life. I slowly began to feel connected to the world again instead of feeling like I was on the outside looking in at other people. The education that Cynthia provided also helped me to feel empowered--"I can take care of myself."
Cynthia is not (nor has she ever been) just a coach or mentor. She's my friend. I know that, even now almost 8 years later, she is still there for me if I need her.
Being able to talk to someone that has already been in the phase of the grief journey that I was going through made it easier to get through each day.
I can welcome love into my life, most recently in the form of my precious grandson, Ethan. I feel happy looking forward to the future. There are times when a cloud will come over my life and I get sad missing my husband, but the cloud only stays a brief time. I have learned how to embrace the cloud remember my loved one and then let the cloud float away again. The clouds come so much less now than they did in the beginning. Through Cindy's guidance you learn how to live through those moments and then embrace the joy of life again. I'm blessed to have found Cindy early in my grief journey and have her walk it with me, teaching me the pitfalls and how to navigate them so that they aren't so dangerous. I live my life to the fullest most every day.