Are you a widow or do you know one?
Here are 10 tips to share.
1) Assemble a support team
Confer with a team of trusted advisors so that they can attend to some important issues for you, acting on your behalf as appropriate.
Societal norms make it awkward for a widow to visit banks and other institutions in person so soon after the death of a spouse; you will have to delegate some of these tasks.
2) You need friends and relations
It is only natural for close family members and friends want to give you advice. Listen to the advice, thank them politely and continue with your plans.
You do need independent, unbiased, objective guidance from those that can review and evaluate your financial position and provide holistic, comprehensive suggestions and solutions.
Relations and friends can take advantage of a vulnerable widow even at a time like this so one must muster all the strength that one can.
3) Find and secure important legal and financial documents
This is very important and you’ll find that a lot of women get into trouble financially because while their spouse was alive, they were not involved in financial decisions and had no information concerning important documents.
In the midst of the emotional turmoil and confusion, the last thing you want to think about is searching for and securing important legal and financial documents. If these are lost or fall into the wrong hands there could be dire consequences and you could even find yourself in a bitter legal battle.
If you need help, enlist a close, trusted friend or someone from your financial support team. It is of utmost importance that the documents are kept in a safe and secure place.
Obtain a dozen or more certified copies of your spouse’s death certificate. You will need them to present to financial and other institutions, they will request for originals and not copies for their records.
4) Visit banks and financial institutions
Having identified your late husband’s bank and investment accounts and other financial documentation, there are certain issues that must be dealt with immediately such as the need to inform his banks of his demise, stop subscriptions and payments, premiums and direct debits etc. Other less pressing matters can be postponed until later.
If you maintained a joint account with your spouse, you are fully entitled to the account balances without the delay of probate. Complete new Account Opening forms and have the name on the accounts changed to reflect only your name or another joint account holder if you are considering a joint account with one of your children.
If the bank accounts were solely in your husband’s name, inform the banks of his passing so the account can be frozen until all the estate documentation has been processed. This will help to protect the account from fraudsters.
5) Consider your insurance
Did your husband have a life insurance policy in place and are you his main beneficiary? Assuming you are his beneficiary, contact his insurance company and file for the claim so you have access to that money. When the funds are released, place it in a safe money market account with a strong and stable bank for three to six months whilst you review your financial situation and consider the most appropriate way to apply the funds.
Avoid the temptation to immediately invest your funds in a long-term instrument regardless of how attractive the sales pitch might be.
6) Contact your spouse’s former employer
Visit your husband’s former workplace. The company will be able to advice you of any entitlements. Be prepared for the fact that you might not be his designated “Next of Kin.”
If you are not his designated “next of kin,” they might not accord you audience.
If your spouse was already receiving a company pension, contact his Pension Fund Administrator (PFA); they will advise you of the next steps.
If you were totally dependent upon your husband for your livelihood, his pension or gratuity will come in handy as you adjust to your new status or plan to start a business.
7) Review your financial situation
An objective and thorough review of your financial situation by a professional will help put things in perspective and provide you with a more realistic understanding of your financial status. A financial advisor will review and assess your current financial status and the impact of your husband’s passing on your finances. They should be able to assist with the paperwork and create a budget that will help you cope with immediate cash flow needs.
Where a widow has little or nothing, and there are hundreds of thousands of widows in this situation, it is important to start to consider income earning. Even where you are fortunate enough to be able to rely upon your extended family for support, it is advisable to try to regain some independence as soon as feasible. Particularly for the widow with little or no formal education, there is the need for them to avail themselves of the opportunities to gain new skills or to enhance skills that they currently have.
8) Don’t rush into making any major decisions
Avoid making any major life-changing decisions at this time;
It is natural to crave change following such major loss but this is not the time to act impulsively. As far as possible, take your time and consider all your options, before making any major changes.
Certain obligations must be fulfilled immediately, such as school fees and rent or mortgage payments, which must go uninterrupted along with the impending funeral expenses.
Decisions to retire, relocate, sell your home or other property, to buy or sell investments, to gift property or make loans to family members or friends, can come later.
Avoid making large payments. Pay just the acceptable minimum amount until you are sure of your financial situation. Unless there are interest or other implications, try to defer payments. The passage of time will provide a more objective perspective as you make far reaching financial decisions.
9) Beware of Fraudsters
Unscrupulous financial predators often prey on bereaved families and in particular, vulnerable widows whose knowledge of financial matters might be weak amidst raw emotions. Be mindful of the fact that some of the predators may well be some members of the extended family.
10) Plan your own estate
If you had to learn these lessons the hard way as your spouse did not have an estate plan in place, you should make every effort to ensure that you make things easier for your eventual survivors and heirs; put your estate plan in place.