Most women will become widows, outliving their husbands by seven to 10 years.
Not necessarily late in life either, as there are a surprising number of widows under 60. They will nearly all tell you that nothing can prepare you for the shock and grief of losing a spouse.
So when it comes to the family's financial affairs, widowed women need to be very well informed and organised.
WHAT TO DO
Initially, you will have to have an income stream from somewhere. If you have a business, get together with your accountant and lawyer urgently and make sure it is being properly managed.
Then you must find his will, and get to your lawyer, who will help you get the necessary paper work under way. If there is a family trust, your lawyer will help you take the appropriate steps.
If there is life insurance, you will need to get claims to the insurance company. Then ensure all home and car insurances are in place and paid.
If life insurance is to be continued on your life, check who should own it.
If there are investments, get on top of them as soon as you can, or appoint a trusted adviser to do so. Instruct your accountant to check all taxes. Have they been paid?
Discuss any debts and mortgages with your accountant and lawyer.
Do a budget and see if you can afford to stay in your home or if you need to downsize?
Although joint assets will now belong to you, you will still need to alter bank accounts, car ownership papers, home ownership and so on. And you will need to make a new will.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Unless you have to, do not make any big decisions in the first year.
Do not move house or to another town for at least 12 months unless you have to. Give yourself time to decide where you will live,
Snap decisions while you are grieving are all too likely to be the wrong ones.
You won't remember this list and you don't have to - it is here to show you why you need to be informed about your family's finances.
You should always know what you own, what you owe, and how you will handle various risks that could wreck things. It need not be a complex task, but you should put it on paper, and update it often.
You could use a school exercise book or a computer, it does not matter which. List all your assets and approximate values, your mortgages and debts and any other liabilities. Add up your assets, deduct your debts and, presto, you can see what you are worth.
Also, if you do it often you will be able to see how you are progressing.
On another page you should make notes that you have wills, where they are, and if they are up to date.
Life insurances, house and contents insurance, and cars and boats. List them all and who insures them.
Are you in business ? Do you need public liability insurance? Do your employees have proper employment agreements ?
Are you heavily in debt? Does your spouse like to take big risks? Discuss any issues with your spouse, and with advisers if necessary. Make notes, plan actions you will take, and when.
Since you will probably live longer you will also need to be tuned in to money and retirement. Work together closely on retirement planning with your husband. Then if he dies first you will be able to manage your affairs.
The death of a spouse will be tough as it is but this kind of preparation may help make things less traumatic.
This article was supplied by Alan Clarke, author of Retire Richer - A Practical Guide For Everyone Aged 25 to 85.
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