Well, of course not, who is? That said, there are some basics that each partner in a couple should know in case the unthinkable happens:
- How much life insurance is on each spouse? Where is the policy information kept?
- Do you have a will? If so, where is it?
- In whose name are your assets? The house, car, investment accounts, etc.?
- What debts do you both have? Personal, mortgages, car loans, credit cards, student loans?
- Where are both partners’ investments? Current and former employer 401(k)s, pensions, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, investments?
- What are the user names and passwords to access your accounts online?
After the death of a spouse, there is much work to do:
- Rollover old work plans to the surviving spouse’s name – don’t wait on this. Sometimes, if the company doesn’t hear from you within a couple of months of the death, they will send you a check for the retirement balance less a 20% tax withholding. Ouch!
- Apply for survivors’ benefits through Social Security, Workman’s Compensation, or other programs your spouse was eligible for. Not sure? Contact the HR departments in ALL of his/her old employers.
- Retitle hard assets such as home, cars, business interests, or rental property into the surviving spouse’s name.
- Retitle investment and bank accounts into the surviving spouse’s name.
- Create a new estate plan for the surviving spouse.
- Decide what lifestyle changes need to be made if life insurance and social program payments are not enough to cover the bills.
This is only meant to be a basic list to get you thinking. You will want to work with a CPA, financial planner, and attorney to make sure the re-titling of assets is done in a way that doesn’t whack you with a huge tax bill. As a grieving spouse is not usually in their best thinking mode, it might be wise to bring a friend to these meetings with you to help take notes and move along with next steps.
If these topics sound like they would be of interest to your employees, sales conference, or professional organization, contact me at 303-324-0014 or kristi@