Regardless of your age and financial position, losing a loved one is a traumatic life event. The process of sorting out the financial side of life after a loss is inherently difficult. It is natural to feel overwhelmed and confused. Making important financial decisions can be a frightening prospect for even the most confident. Suddenly a surviving spouse is faced with making essential decisions that she must consider single-handedly.
"If there is an end to grieving,
its beginning lies here,
in giving up some of the past
and looking toward the future;
making new plans,
making new friends,
and leaving yourself open"
The grief and related emotions that accompany the death of a spouse may prevent you from making sound financial decisions. Don't let emotions rule your decisions or you may compound your loss with financial grief. Allow yourself some time to heal emotionally and gain a better understanding of your financial picture before making any major financial decisions. It is recommended that every surviving spouse, regardless of their emotional state, wait at least one year before making any major decisions, particularly regarding finances.
However, some financial matters need to be handled as soon as possible after the loss of your loved one and in the subsequent weeks and months. These include settling the estate, applying for benefits, developing a budget, and notifying financial institutions, to name a few. A list of these items is included under our Surviving Spouse Checklist. A good financial planner will have the wisdom and experience to help you with these tasks and guide you through this difficult time.
While money can not heal a broken heart, it's important for you to take stock of your financial situation, get expert advice, forestall major decisions for a period of time, and gradually take control over your finances and your life. The fact that you may not have had experience making important financial decisions previously doesn't mean you can't learn to now.