Family Finance

Dealing with loss


The shock and numbness felt after a spouse or family member dies can mean a two-year period of recovery.

For this reason, delay making major lifestyle and investment decisions while you grieve and adjust to your loss. This may be several months, a year or two years. Give yourself ample time to gain a less emotive response to things especially with decisions like the sale of your home.

Firstly, look for your loved one's funeral directions, usually in their will or a separate letter. Order several certified copies of the death certificate and submit these to relevant employer pension plans, superannuation funds or life insurance providers. A death certificate is also required to change titles on cars, houses or other titled assets.

Within two weeks, ask your solicitor or lawyer to review the will and action as necessary. Compile documents needed to claim death benefits (birth and marriage certificates, bank and brokerage statements). Contact your spouses' employer, investment advisor, insurance agent to initiate benefits you may be due.

Within four weeks, review your income and expenses to gauge your ongoing financial position.

Deposit received benefits into an interest-bearing or money-market account. You could equally allocate income into term deposits that mature in 6, 12 and 18 months' time, and have money available every six months.

Within six months, update insurance policies and financial accounts that name the deceased as beneficiary or access holder. If you are acting as estate executor, notify named creditors and meet the debts as they fall due. Get professional advice on whether estate taxes are due. Review all insurance policies to ensure you are properly protected. Revise your own will if it is affected (especially if the deceased was an executor). Write a will if you do not have one, especially as a will is more vital for a widow or single parent than a married couple (e.g. appointing a guardian for children). Examine the deceased's financial accounts for auto-deducted insurance policies that may not be documented.

After a year, develop and apply a short and long term finance and investment plan: list assets, debts, insurance policies, income sources, and expenses by type. Work out long term expenses like dependents' education, debts, and not-for-profit giving. Consider your changing needs in housing, transport and overall lifestyle and what you need to do to address them appropriately.

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