Don’t face it alone: the importance of financial guidance when a spouse dies
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Dealing with the death of a life partner is difficult enough without the need to complicate it further. This is often the case when the spouse who dies is the person who dealt mostly with the family’s finances.
“When my husband passed away, I had no idea what to do,” says a 38-year-old woman, who was widowed at age 30. “He was the one in charge of the finances in our relationship, and I unconsciously relied on him always being around to do that. When he wasn’t there anymore, I not only grieved for him personally, but had to tackle a very steep learning curve to secure myself financially.”
There are important decisions that need to be made following the death of a loved one, and unfortunately time is not on your side. This is why it is crucial that you have the guidance of a capable financial adviser when the time comes – and particularly someone who knows the full extent of both spouses’ financial investments, accounts and policies.
Ray Mhere, head of distribution and Momentum Investments, explains that the financial aspect of dealing with the death of someone close can prolong the trauma of the grieving process. “Claiming on life policies, paying for the funeral, wrapping up the deceased’s estate and ensuring that dependents are looked after, are all crucial steps that could unnecessarily drag on if not dealt with correctly. Unfortunately, this is also the time when we are at our most emotional, and making the right decisions that can help the process go smoothly, will likely be difficult.
“I have sometimes met people who aren’t aware of their spouse’s full financial interests. Investment policies, for example, can easily be missed if the beneficiary or inheritor isn’t aware of them. In a case where the person left behind inherits money or receives policy payouts, it is also necessary to have someone knowledgeable to help you invest for your future – which is extremely difficult to do at a time of loss,” says Mhere.
A financial adviser therefore becomes a vital asset during difficult times, whether wrapping up an estate or planning around how to best invest an inheritance.
“Dealing with the inevitability of death and ensuring that the financial impact of this traumatic event is minimised, takes planning – which is why every household needs a financial adviser that can help them to put the right measures in place. Life policies that adequately cover those left behind, well-drafted wills that neatly wrap up family members’ estates, and putting investment plans in place are all important steps to take when you are still alive. An adviser is a key component to ensuring that this is done in the best possible way.”
After a death, Mhere says that an adviser can become a family’s closest partner. “Even after everything is put in place, there are major financial decisions that need to be taken after someone dies. An adviser offers families objective guidance when they are too overcome by emotion to make measured choices regarding things like how death benefits are paid and how possible disputes should be handled.”
Beware smooth talkers
He says that looking out for financial traps is a key responsibility of an adviser as well. “The unfortunate truth is that there are people who will try to take advantage of grieving families with offers that could hurt them financially. Things like investment suggestions and offers of financial products should be vetted and handled by your financial adviser to ensure that your family’s finances are safe over the long run.”
Mhere says that a trusted financial adviser can become a family’s long-term ally after a death. “The whole reason for estate planning is to ensure that those left behind are taken care of for the rest of their lives as well. Having someone to turn to with financial matters throughout your own life, will ensure that your loved one’s estate can do the most amount of good. Doing what’s right for you and your family is a massive responsibility, but it isn’t something that you have to do alone. An adviser can be there to oversee the complex matters when you are at your most vulnerable,” he says.