Help for those that are “Suddenly Single”

The sudden realization that you alone are responsible for all of your household, financial and health matters can be a shock. Life changes even the most detailed of plans for the future. Many people suffer financial discourse during times of life change due to a lack of preparation. Not to discount the emotional trauma resulting from a sudden loss of a spouse, divorce or the incapacity of your partner, but confidence can be gained by understanding a few simple strategies to maintain your lifestyle.

Start today by discussing with your spouse/partner the complete financial picture of your family. Include such mundane tasks as identifying your insurance agent, where to pay utility bills and the location of the safe deposit box key. I have experienced too many client situations in my career where one spouse has controlled the finances for the family without much input from the other spouse.

Next, obtain copies of all of your bank statements and review the disbursements from your account. Do you know the company/person to whom the payment was tendered? Do you know why you pay this company/person? Look for any “automatic drafts” that occur without your knowledge and determine if it is a continuing valid need.

In matters of divorce, it is critical to correct beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. once the divorce has settled. One horror story comes to mind. A client of ours divorced and when we inquired about his life insurance beneficiary designations, we were informed that he “had taken care of the matter and changed them to his current spouse”. The client unexpectedly died about two years later and during the process of administrating his estate, the life insurance policy and beneficiary designation form was discovered. He had not changed the beneficiary to his current spouse! Imagine the difficulty of explaining to your current spouse why the decedent’s former spouse is receiving $1,000,000 of tax-free life insurance proceeds. 

Property titles should be correctly titled after the loss of a loved one through divorce or death. Estate documents must be reviewed and amended for your current situation. This process may seem overwhelming but it is, in fact, very simple. See out a Certified Financial Planner registrant or attorney that can guide you through the changes and execution of the documents. You will be glad you did.

  • Action #1: Know where your income is deposited and where your money is spent.
  • Action #2: Review all IRA, qualified plans and life insurance statements for proper beneficiary designations.
  • Action #3: Consult an attorney or CFP® practitioner to confirm your property titles correctly reflect the appropriate individuals or entities.

Ignoring the situation is the worst action to take in these matters. What you don’t know, can truly hurt you.

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