The Circumstance

A woman was referred to us who recently lost her husband.  Even if a surviving spouse is knowledgeable and handled the couple’s financial matters, when their world turns upside down, emotions can leave one vulnerable and adrift.  What was critical was to connect immediately with her team of advisors, including her estate attorney, her CPA, and her insurance professional.  We assured her that her team would work together to help her make important decisions throughout the difficult period and beyond.

Our Strategy

Documents: We explained that her immediate priority would be gathering estate and asset documents critical to the process.  A good estate planning attorney would have prepared her for this by creating a master notebook containing these.  For many, however, a loss is sudden, and finding documents and gathering the estate assets is not a simple task.   In addition to certified death certificates, we helped her collect copies of insurance policies for life, home, auto, mortgage, health, real estate deeds, bank accounts, auto titles, and retirement and investment information.  We also guided her in how to lawfully access her husband’s online accounts.

Updating Accounts, Registrations, and Beneficiaries Our team helped her re-title accounts into her name from their joint right of survivorship account and worked with the estate attorney to retitle other accounts in accordance with the estate plan.  Because her husband held the safe deposit box in his name, we worked with her estate attorney and helped her secure a court order to access its contents.  Credit card accounts held only in her spouse’s name were canceled and balances paid by the estate.  Her insurance policies and retirement account beneficiary designations were changed.

Social Security and Insurance: There were multiple decisions required by our client regarding how to receive Social Security and insurance benefits.  Working with her team of advisors made this part of the process less stressful for her.

Estate Planning:  Especially after the death of a spouse, it’s critical to update the estate plan.  We made sure that our client updated her will and durable power of attorney, and retirement account beneficiary designations.  Some other planning could come later.

Financial Planning: We impressed upon our client that we would guide her into her new financial future.  We reassured her that we would help her with cash flow planning, the re-assessment of her risk tolerance and asset allocation, liquidity needs, and overall financial goals.  We provided her clear and concise information that demonstrated that if her investments were managed by ClearRock, we could give her an opportunity to maintain a level of spending and lifestyle that she had before the loss of her husband.

The Outcome

The emotional and physical toll on our client following the death of her spouse was profound.  In the short term, we were part of her professional team that attempted to mitigate the stress to the extent we could.  We all encouraged her not to make unnecessary financial decisions quickly.  As she gradually adjusted to her new life, we guided her to a place where she knew she had financial security.