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Losing a spouse is one of the most emotionally devastating events a person can ever go through, but it can also be financially devastating. Many surviving spouses are left financially vulnerable with lost income, joint assets, and other complications that need to be addressed. Even though you may still be grieving, it’s important to take the following steps as soon as possible to protect your financial future. 

Retitle Joint Assets

One of the first steps you need to take after your spouse passes away is retitling assets into your name. Moving assets into the name of the surviving spouse is sometimes overlooked, but it’s important going forward as you begin to make decisions about your retirement. Assets that need to be moved into your name include joint bank accounts, IRAs and other retirement accounts, real estate, and vehicles. Don’t forget about insurance policies and utilities as well. 

Analyze Your Surviving Income

Before you make any major financial decisions, make sure you understand where you stand now that you have lost your spouse’s income. Annuities and life insurance policies can help you manage final expenses, but it’s important to file claims as soon as possible. Along with these immediate benefits, you will also need to calculate your ongoing income. For example, you may be entitled to your late spouse’s social security and VA benefits. 

You may want to meet with a San Diego financial advisor to help you assess your current financial situation and determine what to do with any retirement accounts or investment accounts your spouse had. 

Avoid Hasty Financial Decisions

Many widows and widowers make the mistake of taking investment or financial advice from well-meaning relatives and friends soon after the death of a spouse. Before you make any major decisions, allow yourself to heal emotionally and gain a good understanding of your current financial situation. Wait until you’re ready to make big decisions such as selling your home, taking a vacation, or gifting money to family. 

It’s common for surviving spouses to try to march through major decisions in an attempt to get their life back together. For instance, when you receive the settlement check from the life insurance policy, you may be tempted to pay off your mortgage. While this may seem like a good idea, it could leave you without enough liquid assets to survive. 

Get Help When You Need It

If you feel overwhelmed trying to navigate the probate process, locate assets, assess your financial health, or decide what to do with investments, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. A lawyer or financial advisor can help you make decisions for today and the future. Make sure you only work with licensed professionals, as there are unscrupulous individuals who prey upon widows and widowers and take advantage of their trust.
If you need help managing your finances following the death of your husband or wife, reach out to Jan Gleisner, one of the top financial advisors San Diego has to offer. With over 16 years of experience in the financial planning industry, Gleisner can help you reach your money related goals. Get in touch today.