Partner Content

How can I ensure that I have responsibly prepared for the most difficult of transitions?

Bergwitzsee, See, Winter, Steg, Sonnenuntergang, kalt, Spiegelung, Deutschland, Dübener Heide, Sachsen-Anhalt, Tagebaurestloch

Just a short while ago, I learned of two women in our local community who’d lost their spouses to sudden death. Their grief was only magnified by anxiety, as these widows found themselves overwhelmed, managing a multitude of tasks and decisions and worrying about how day-to-day life was going to be completely different.

Every one of us in a loving partnership will at some point face this most difficult of transitions—either predeceasing our loved ones or surviving without them. Recently, I have spoken at various forums and shared with clients and friends some insights on managing the financial details and other complexities associated with the loss of a spouse or domestic partner.

Two important questions generally frame these discussions. First, what basic documents should we complete, ideally well in advance of this loss?

• Healthcare proxy—appoints an agent to make healthcare decisions if you are not capable of doing so

• Living will—provides advance directives guiding your healthcare agent, doctors and caregivers to understand your wishes

• Durable power of attorneyappoints an agent to act in your place if you are unable to make legal decisions

• Will—sets forth your final wishes regarding distribution of property and debts, care of dependents and pets, burial arrangements and names of the individuals to be responsible for your estate

• Revocable trust or living trustoften used in conjunction with a will to minimize probate, facilitate administration of assets and maintain privacy; holds assets during your life for your own benefit; and sets forth instructions regarding distribution of the trust property thereafter

• Retirement plans, IRAs and insurance documents—makes sure HR and financial institutions have updated beneficiary designations

As a best practice, also create a legacy document containing everything your survivors will need to understand about what you have and where to access it. In recent years, legacy documents have transitioned from binders to electronic documents that are easily updated and shared with designated recipients. At the very least, they should be kept in your attorney’s vault.

Typically, a legacy document includes the location and dates of the items listed above, as well as prenuptial, divorce and other legal arrangements. A listing of assets and liabilities with corresponding institutions and account numbers, as well as a description of contracts, leases, benefits, insurance documents and safe-deposit box information should also be included. If there is valuable art or collectibles, you should provide information regarding original purchases and provenance.

The second critical question is: How can we best rely on trusted loved ones and professional advisors during these times of need? In the middle of a crisis, it will be reassuring to know who can effectively support you, so that you are not unduly burdened and powerful emotions do not overwhelm rationality during decision-making processes.

Your formal team should include your attorney, fiduciaries (executors and trustees) and financial and tax advisors. Let each person know in advance what his or her respective role covers, and that all those involved should be prepared to work collaboratively as a team.

Contact information for your advisory team, insurance agents and designated family and friends will assist everyone in communicating with one another. A designated advisor should also take the lead and coordinate with the other members of your advisory team to establish a calendar for decisions or actions.

In sum, bereavement is physically and mentally exhausting, and the events precipitating it can be financially exhausting as well. What can help—physically, mentally and financially—in these difficult times of transition are thoughtful planning done in advance and a competent team of trusted advisors who’ll work together for your best interests and those of your loved ones.

Read More from The Colony Group

Family MattersRetirement PlanningTrust & Estate Planning

Disclaimer: Worth magazine is a financial publisher and does not recommend or endorse investment, legal, insurance or tax advisors. The listing of any firm in the 2019 Worth® Leading AdvisorsTM Program does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement by Worth magazine of any such firm and is not based upon Worth magazine’s experience with, or prior dealings with, any advisor. The information presented for each advisor, including but not limited to any related profile, statistical data, presentation, report, commentary, recommendation or strategy, has been provided by such advisor without review or independent verification by Worth magazine. Any such information is the sole responsibility of the advisor. Worth magazine makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of such information, assumes no liability for any inaccuracies or omissions therein and disclaims responsibility for the suitability of any particular investment recommendation or strategy for any person. Nothing contained in Worth magazine constitutes or should be construed as any form of investment, legal, insurance or tax advice or as a recommendation to buy, sell, hold or trade any securities, financial instruments or assets. Readers are advised to consult their legal, financial, insurance and tax advisors prior to making any investment or pursuing any investment strategy. Past, model or hypothetical performance is not indicative of future results.

back to top