MN Probate Law | Basic Financial and Grief Advice for Recent Widows & Widowers

Widow Grief AdviceAs we grow older, we discover that no one can ever be truly “ready” to lose a spouse.  Read on for more information about widow grief advice.

Even if you’re the sole caregiver of your husband or wife, the actual moment that person “passes away” or dies nearly always feels like a devastating loss – an event of immeasurable proportions. Efforts to try and regain your emotional and financial balance after this type of loss can seem futile – especially if you did little or no advance financial planning together.

However, whether your spouse has already passed away – or you’re currently struggling to take care of a seriously ailing husband or wife, you should be able to pick up some useful tips below to help you better prepare for the future – including estate planning. These suggestions can provide new steps toward growth for you personally – or you can share this information with someone you know who may need this type of help soon.

Widow Grief Advice | If Your Spouse is Still Alive — Have an Open Talk About Finances — Now

Do yourself and your spouse a big favor by immediately having a specific discussion about the current state of your finances. Gather up all of your individual paperwork and tell each other where all of your banking and investment accounts are located – and share the passwords for all online accounts with each other. Consider buying a large, spiral address book so you can record all of this critical information in it. You can list each account alphabetically. Be sure to update this information annually and keep this book or ledger in the same, secure location. (Creating a back-up copy would be very wise).

Here are some additional tips for regaining your financial and emotional footing after a spouse’s death – many of them are based on a recent New York Times article. These steps can help you move through what that Times article refers to as “the fog of grief.” Although women still tend to live longer than men and there are more widows in America than widowers, these tips should prove just as useful for men as for women.

Tips for More Quickly Regaining Your Financial/Emotional Balance After a Spouse Dies

  • Don’t hurry out and spend money on anything unnecessary. Many surviving spouses often feel a strong urge to go out and make a major purchase all on their own. While it’s one thing to simply buy a new couch or trade in a used car for a reasonably priced new one, it’s another thing to hurriedly sell your home and buy tickets for international travel;
  • Ask widows and widowers you know where you can find and join a good support group. Whether you’re active in a local house of worship, a community activity group – or even just a weekly poker or knitting group, chances are someone there has recently been through what you’re having to cope with and can provide you with the name of a local grief support group. If you cannot find this type of group, call up a local psychologist or senior center and ask for their recommendation. Joining this type of group can almost instantly help you feel “less alone” and more like someone who’s definitely going to move forward successfully – and do just fine;
  • Realize that about half of all men and women lose their first spouse around the age of 59 or 60. Accept reality and know that both of you will probably not live into your late 70s or early 80s. While some couples are that fortunate – you need to hedge your bets and share all you can now about all of your marital finances. A person can look incredibly healthy, exercise regularly and still have an unknown “DNA time bomb” that can suddenly cause him or her to suffer a fatal stroke or heart attack;
  • Hire a trustworthy, highly recommended financial advisor right away – and meet with your Minnesota estate planning attorney. Your lawyer can help you locate and properly interpret your various investment documents – and your financial advisor can help you begin deciding how to invest any new funds coming your way. Both of these professionals can provide their opinions about how you can best move forward;
  • Avoid letting your adult children, siblings or other relatives overrule your judgment, especially if you’re moving forward in a conservative fashion. Also, be wary of the small percentage of “professionals” who view recent widows or widowers as “easy marks” to make themselves rich at your expense. Always get a second or third opinion from friends and professionals before making any new, major financial decisions;
  • Don’t just say “I’m not good at math” and expect a financial advisor to make all of your major decisions for you. Be willing to sign up for a simple, straightforward online course (you can often find one that doesn’t assign grades) – that can help you become more financially literate. Since your investment portfolio will likely need to change over time – you must be able to talk intelligently with your financial advisor about all of your options. If you still feel very intimidated – ask around and see if a local university or community college offers a short-term class on financial investments. Your financial advisor should be able to suggest either an online or community program to you;
  • Look into groups like “Sisters on the Fly,” “The Red Hat Society” — or for men – The National Widower’s Organization. Members of these groups can often help you move through the different grief stages – locate a good, local financial advisor — and start reaching out and enjoying life again with other group members;
  • Always respect this general rule of thumb – never make any major expenditures for six months to one year after your spouse dies. While exceptional circumstances can require ignoring this key advice – lovingly realize that you won’t be your “true self” again for at least that long.

Finally, consider meeting with a professional grief counselor or basic therapist to help you better understand your vacillating feelings and frustrations as you get to know yourself as a single man or woman – who also happens to be a widow or widower. After all, new beginnings are always possible for each one of us.

Minnesota Estate Planning/Probate Attorney

Contact the Flanders Law Firm today. The firm offers free estate planning consultations to all potential clients. Call (612) 424-0398.

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