A recent study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave takes a close look at what happens when a spouse dies, according to CBS News’ Moneywatch in “A retirement planning must-do for married couples.”
“Widowhood: The Loss Couples Rarely Plan for—and Should” notes that women are three times as likely as men to be the surviving spouse, since women historically tend to live longer. Widowers tend to marry younger women, leaving many older women to need to learn how to live as senior singles.
More than half of all of those surveyed who had lost a spouse, said they had not planned for it. More than three-quarters of married retirees said they would not be financially prepared for retirement, if their spouse passed away.
Losing a spouse is the hardest thing for married people, particularly if they have never been single. Some 75% of those who had lost a spouse said, it was the single hardest thing they’d ever had to deal with. Half of them experience a household decline in income of 50%—or more. Adjusting to that loss of income is a big concern.
When the first spouse passes, the surviving spouses report that they were overwhelmed with paperwork and didn’t know how to begin.
You can plan for this unpleasant eventuality, and you should. Just as having an estate plan in place will help loved ones, planning for one of you to become widowed will help the other.
What should couples do in advance?
- Know what all your assets and accounts are and how to access all accounts.
- Make sure both names are on all accounts and deeds.
- Be able to access cash.
- Keep credit card debt separate.
Here’s some advice from the surviving spouses:
- Avoid making big decisions, until at least a year has passed.
- Find all important documents and pay bills on time.
- Notify banks, financial advisors and employers.
- Reevaluate your retirement strategy, following a financial audit of your new situation.
- Update your estate plan and check all beneficiary designations.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: CBS Moneywatch (Sep. 12, 2018) “A retirement planning must-do for married couples”