5 Things You Need To Do Immediately After the Loss of a Partner

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Losing a partner is a devastating experience. When you’re caught up in emotional turmoil, the last thing you’re likely thinking about is the financial moves you now need to make. But from a financial planning perspective, there are certain actions you should take ASAP, while other things you can hold off on until you feel ready to tackle them. In today’s “Financially Savvy Female” column, we’re chatting with Rachael Burns, CFP, financial planner and founder of True Worth Financial Planning, about what women should do immediately after the loss of a partner, and which financial planning moves are less urgent.

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What To Do Immediately After the Loss of a Partner

Here are the matters Burns said you need to address as soon as possible.

Update the Appropriate Agencies

“If your spouse was employed, contact their employer to walk you through retirement and any other spousal benefits available to you,” Burns said. “You’ll also need to call Social Security to report your partner’s death and see if you are eligible for any survivor benefits. Make sure to notify any insurance companies where your partner owned a policy.”

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Gather Your Partner’s Estate Planning Documents

This includes any wills and/or trusts.

“These may be held with an estate planning attorney or kept in a safe place,” Burns said.

Gather and Pay Any Outstanding Bills

You don’t want missed payment penalties or debt adding to your current stress. Make sure you stay on top of paying any bills that may be due during this time.

“Many bills may be set up on auto-payments, so make sure that they won’t be interrupted if any bank accounts have been frozen after your spouse’s death,” Burns added.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

“Make sure you get a list of all debts and open accounts owned by your partner, and make sure that no new credit can be taken out in your partner’s name,” Burns said.

Make Sure You Have Access to Cash

Before freezing or closing any accounts, make sure you have access to enough cash to get you through in the short term.

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“Estimate how much you’ll need to cover immediate bills, funeral/burial expenses and any other urgent items,” Burns said. “If you don’t have enough cash, consider selling other assets that can be sold quickly and easily without penalty or other losses.”

Other Items To Put on Your Financial To-Do List

“All of the following tasks are important, but can be put off until you finish the more urgent items and feel ready to tackle the next tasks,” Burns said.

Update Ownership on Assets and Accounts

“You’ll eventually want to get everything transitioned into your name,” Burns said. “Each asset will have its own process to get it updated, so you’ll want to check with each financial institution or the county recorder’s office.”

Update Estate Plans

The loss of a partner will likely mean you need to revise your estate plans.

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“If you are older or in poor health, this is more time sensitive,” Burns said. “Consult with an estate planning attorney to make sure you have a plan in place for how your assets get distributed if you pass away, and also appoint someone to help you with medical and financial decisions if you were to become incapacitated. Check your beneficiaries on any of your retirement accounts and insurance policies.”

Reallocate Investments

“Review your investments to make sure they are in line with your individual risk tolerance and investment objectives, which may be different than your partner’s,” Burns said. “This can be more time sensitive if you have inherited some very high-risk investments that are out of alignment with your investment preferences and comfort level.”

Consider Meeting With a Tax Professional

“Following the year of your partner’s death, you will be filing as single, so there may be some strategies to optimize your taxes,” Burns said.

GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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