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Financial Moves for Widows and Widowers

Mark D. Berghuis, CFP®, AAMS®,
CRPC®
Financial Advisor
Edward Jones Investments
Kenosha

If you’ve recently become a widow
or widower, you’re obviously dealing
with an enormous emotional burden,
and coping with your grief can seem
like a full-time struggle. Unfortunately,
the business of life must go on – and
the financial moves you make at this
time can have a big impact on your life.
So, as you attend to your affairs,
consider the following suggestions:
• Don’t make hasty decisions.
Even though you will need to
make some moves in the near
future, don’t feel rushed into
decisions that may prove to be
ill-advised. For example, don’t
immediately sell your home or
liquidate all your stocks.

• Consult with your estate
planning professional. If you
and your spouse created an estate
plan involving a will, living trust or
other documents, you’ll want to
consult with your estate planning
professional to determine
what steps should be taken to
implement these arrangements.
• Address life insurance issues. If
your spouse had a life insurance
policy, you’ll want to contact
your insurance agent for help
in navigating the paperwork
necessary to receive the death
benefit. Of course, some financial
advisors also sell life insurance
within the context of your overall
financial strategy, so, if this is your
situation, you’ll want to speak with
your advisor about how to handle
the insurance proceeds.
• Apply for Social Security
benefits. If you are 60 or older,
you may be entitled to Social
Security survivor benefits, along
with a one-time death benefit.
Contact your local Social Security
office to stop the benefits your
spouse received and apply for the
new ones for yourself.

• Change the name on financial
accounts. If you and your spouse
had jointly held accounts with
“right of survivorship,” the assets
will typically pass automatically
to you, the surviving spouse.
However, for legal purposes, it’s
still a good idea to retitle these
assets in your name. This usually
only requires filling out some
simple documents, which are
available from your financial
institutions – bank, credit
union, investment firm, etc. But
you also may need to change
the beneficiary designations
on accounts held only in your
name, such as your 401(k). These
designations are powerful and
can even supersede instructions in
your will or living trust.
• Go over bills and debts. Review
all your bills, automatic payments
and outstanding loans. If they are
in your spouse’s name, or in both
your names, contact the merchant
or financial services provider to
change all correspondence and
account information to your name
only. For any outstanding accounts
in your spouse’s name, you may
need to notify the business that

all payments will be handled by
your spouse’s estate, if you choose
to go that route. You may need to
provide these businesses with the
contact information of your estate
planning professional.
• Plan for your future. Once
you’ve handled the immediate
financial needs described above,
you’ll want to think about your
own future. This means you may
have to update your estate plans
and insurance policies. You’ll also
want to consult with your financial
advisor to see what changes, if
any, you might need to make to
your investment portfolio.
Only time can ease the pain of
losing a spouse. But by taking care of
the mundane matters of daily living,
you can at least alleviate the feelings
of being overwhelmed – and that, in
itself, has value.
This article was written by Edward
Jones for use by your local Edward
Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones,
Member SIPC
To schedule an appointment to meet
with Mark, call 262-551-8089 or email:
mark.berghuis@edwardjones.com

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