by Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove
Over the years, I’ve seen not only clients but my own family members navigate the complicated emotions of losing a spouse. In my experience, I have seen that everyone grieves differently. There is no timetable, but it does involve a lot of space and grace for oneself, as you work through the healing process.
This is never an easy experience. It is not only disorienting emotionally as you navigate a new life without them, but if you haven’t had adequate time to prepare your financial life for their passing, many of the tasks required of you can add to the stress of an already difficult time.
While the list below is not exhaustive, what follows are some thoughts on approaches you might consider taking. Hopefully, some of these could help make your journey a little easier.
Reach out to your network for support
Be sure to connect frequently with your kids, other family members, friends and counselors. Lean into relationships that offer comfort during this time.
It’s also critical to get in touch with your financial advisor, CPA, estate planning attorney, insurance agents and any other of your professional advisors. They can help you navigate all the detailed administrative tasks you’re faced with. Retitling investment accounts, changing ownership on bank accounts, renaming beneficiaries on retirement accounts and insurance policies – these are all tedious tasks that you can get help with. Run through your list to determine whom you can delegate certain tasks to. Anything you can take off your plate during this time will give you the time you need to have the space to contend with your loss – and grieve.
Contact the necessary government agencies
The Social Security Administration should be notified of your spouse’s passing. If your spouse was receiving benefits, any payments made for the month of death and any months after their passing require repayment, which can sometimes be complicated. For guidance, contact your local Social Security Office or call 1-800-772-1213. The funeral home you work with may have already reached out to some government agencies on your behalf, so it’s wise to coordinate to avoid duplicating your efforts.
Let your spouse’s employer know about their passing
You’ll need to end coverage on health coverages if obtained through your spouse, transfer any employer retirement accounts, and make sure to check if your partner had any life insurance through work that you need to file a claim on. If your spouse had a pension through work, you will need to determine if there were survivor benefits and if so, work through the different payment options.
Don’t forget the miscellaneous items
Here are just a few suggestions:
Take the time to consider your new life and what you want it to look like
If you’re like many grieving spouses, you may have not had the time or opportunity to think about what your life will look like after your partner is gone. After my grandmother passed away, my grandfather spent a great deal of time sticking to the same routines and activities that they loved doing together. He found comfort in doing this, as this was a part of his grieving process. In my research, I’ve taken away that it can make a huge difference to your own adjustment if you allow yourself to spend some time settling into your new life. While sometimes this may not be possible, mental health experts suggest it can be truly helpful to try to avoid any big changes during the first year.
Another approach that many in your shoes have found helpful: Consider writing down your goals – or try keeping a journal. Sometimes picking up a pen and paper is hard to do when you have so many other things that need your attention, but it can be very cathartic. You have the big responsibility of determining not only what your financial situation will look like going forward, but also what is truly important to you to make this next chapter fulfilling.
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Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors, LLC (“HH”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Long Beach, California. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Additional information about HH, including our registration status, fees, and services can be found at www.halberthargrove.com. This blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice. It should not be construed as a solicitation to offer personal securities transactions or provide personalized investment advice. The information provided does not constitute any legal, tax or accounting advice. We recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney and accountant. All opinions or views reflect the judgment of the author as of the publication date and are subject to change without notice.