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No More Questions to be Asked; No More Answers Given

It’s been a rough month at our firm.  We have had not one, but two, dreaded phone calls from clients telling me her husband has passed very unexpectedly – as in, totally out of the blue. And after reassuring her that we have a plan in place, everything is in good order, I’ll take care of all of the paperwork and make sure she still has enough income, I encouraged her to just breathe and be with her family, and not worry about a thing.  But when I hung up, I couldn’t help but worry about all of the spouses out there who don’t have a plan in place when lightning strikes, or don’t have a trusted professional to help them.  The paperwork is so complicated and confusing, there are tax time bombs lurking everywhere, and it’s just plain hard.  And I think about how, in that moment when your spouse is gone, there is no more time to ask any questions or hear any answers; it’s just silence. 

And so here is my encouragement to you, my dear readers.  Please take the time to talk to each other about your finances and get yourself organized.  It’s the ultimate gift you give your loved one.  At a minimum: 

  • Make a list of ALL of your financial assets, including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, real estate and life insurance policies.
  • Have recent investment statements filed that are easily accessible and shred old, closed account files.
  • Review how all of these assets are titled.  If everything is either (1) held jointly or (2) held individually with a beneficiary assigned, the surviving spouse should not have to go through the legal probate process. 
  • Make a list of ALL of your debts and recurring expenses, and whether they are individual or jointly held.
  • Make sure your spouse can locate a recent tax return plus all of your legal documents.
  • Discuss how the surviving spouse will need to talk to a CPA about how to properly inherit IRA accounts without tripping any inadvertent taxes. 

There’s a lot more pieces to the puzzle than I can cover here, but this list is a good start and it’s worth the peace of mind it will bring both of you.  If you have a financial advisor, make sure they are doing more than just giving you investment advice.  They should be reviewing your estate planning and beneficiary designations and have a clear understanding of the tax implications of inheriting assets and how to minimize it. And if you have questions for me, reach out.  I’m always happy to answer. Oh, and go give your spouse a hug. 

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