No one likes to think about death or being alone; perhaps these innate fears are the reason many of us fail to plan for the inevitable. But plan you must. Couples especially should place estate and financial planning at the top of their lists of priorities, and here’s why:
According to research conducted by Age Wave (partnering with Merrill Lynch), people “who prepare for losing a spouse fare much better in terms of stress and grieving, but a full 53% of current widows and widowers say they had no plan in place for what to do if one of them died.”
While dealing with the loss of a spouse, the last thing anyone wants to do is worry about finances; unfortunately, “60% of men and women who lose their spouses are immediately burdened by financial expenses, including housing costs such as mortgages or rent.” What’s more, “50% of those who lose a spouse also face a 50% reduction in income.” Having a financial plan in place before such an unthinkable loss occurs can eliminate some of the financial stress and burdens of widowhood. The earlier a comprehensive financial plan is in place the better; according to the Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study, “6% of the 1.4 million people who lose their spouses every year are under [the age of] 44.” While 6% seems like a small percentage, there are clearly a large number of new widows every year in various stages of life. It is never too early to plan for the future.
The first step is to seek the help of professionals; you and your spouse should not face financial planning alone. Hiring professionals will ensure that your plan is done right and with every consideration in mind. Professionals will work with you to create a tailored plan that works best for you and your spouse.
Certified financial planners, accountants or attorneys can help address the reduction in income issue that widows face by helping you navigate the different options available to you. Life insurance planning and retirement planning are only some of the ways in which a certified financial planner can assist you in planning for the potential loss of your spouse.
Estate planning and elder law attorneys can go even further by ensuring that you and your spouse have a proper estate plan in place that will take care of the surviving spouse. A good estate plan can include things like wills and trusts that can financially benefit the surviving spouse for the short and long term. Your attorney can also help maximize and preserve your benefits, such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. A good estate and financial plan will have various mechanisms that work seamlessly together to bring the most benefit to you and your family.
Together, these professionals can give you peace of mind by ensuring that your needs are met, no matter the circumstances.