Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

grieving womanAutumn is here and the new season brings cooler temperatures and, perhaps, a change in routines. Life is all about change… it can be exciting change or unwelcome change and both kinds can be challenging. As wealth managers, DWM’s goal is always to maximize the positive and minimize the impact of anything negative that may occur. Becoming single, by death or divorce, is one of life’s most difficult challenges. Grief can cause emotional and physical distress and, sometimes, even cognitive impairment. Your resilience during this time can be directly affected by the stability of your financial resources. Though we all certainly hope that you never have to face the loss of a spouse or significant other, there are things that you can do now and guidelines to follow if necessary that will reduce the burden if something does happen.

A very important part of preparation is to collect all your financial data and keep it current and organized. Haphazard record-keeping can cause an agonizing and time-consuming chore in the midst of a stressful situation. Keep an accurate inventory of all your assets, accounts and property. Have a physical or electronic file of your most recent statements from your checking and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages or home equity lines, as well as all investment accounts. You will need copies of your most current insurance policy declaration pages, policies and statements. These might include your life, homeowners, auto, disability, long-term care and any other property or casualty policies. Also, it is important to keep marriage and birth certificates together. Keep at least 2 years of tax returns available and a current paystub or income information. You will also need wills, trust documents or other pertinent legal paperwork. And it is good to have a current Social Security benefit statement, which you can access online. Finally, keep a record of ALL your password information for both financial and social accounts. Consider telling a close confidante where your information is available. DWM offers a safe and secure electronic “vault” on its servers for storing copies of all of your financial information for you.

If something does happen and you are faced with a loss or separation, be sure to first take some time to grieve and don’t feel like you must rush into any decisions. Once you are ready, you should contact your financial advisor, hopefully DWM, and your attorney to guide you through this process. Start notifying all financial institutions to change names or close accounts. Contact the insurance companies, credit bureaus, credit card companies and any other creditors. Consider closing accounts, memberships and subscriptions that are unnecessary. Start retitling all the assets and be sure to keep a list of who you have talked to and what needs to be done, as it can be a lot to remember. Be sure to pay all final bills, with a priority on mortgages and utilities. If need be, transfer bills, like utilities, into the new payer’s name. Also, notify the Social Security Administration, the Post Office and your or your spouse’s employer, if need be. Be sure to destroy old cards and shred any unnecessary financial paperwork. Try to avoid putting too much detail on social media pages or in obituaries to protect your security.

It is very important to have a proactive financial advisor, like DWM, before and after you become single. We can assist with getting everything organized and advise you on all the requirements during this difficult time. We will work with you to evaluate your net worth and review all your assets and liabilities. It is also a good time to re-assess your risk profile and investment strategies. We can help you look at your goals and budget and adjust your financial plan to accommodate new needs and changing situations. You might be thinking about some lifestyle changes… perhaps moving to a different home, getting a new job, or doing some travelling. Life’s challenges may bring some changes in your life. DWM welcomes the opportunity to be the leader of your transition team.