Serving more than 2,000 families over the last 25 years has afforded me the opportunity to experience the gambit of emotions from the good, bad, and ugly parts of life’s journey. In my experience, the unexpected loss of a child probably reigns as the deepest wound, but losing a spouse creates the most financial chaos.
With the loss of a spouse, obvious financial issues will require your attention. You need to change the ownership of your assets at your financial institutions, notify the government and pension providers, and contact your insurance providers.
Legacy tools, when written correctly can direct your path in uncertain times. These tools must be written in advance, when you can make rational decisions without the emotional reaction of loss or change. You do the planning ahead of time, so you won’t have to in the worst of times.
If you have a trust or a will, it is likely everything you have is designated to go to your spouse, now deceased. Most documents have provisions for contingent beneficiaries in case you both die at the same time or in the event of one spouse passing. Be sure to confirm your legacy documents are updated to be clear and consistent in case your spouse predeceases you.
Trusts have rules that will dictate what happens next. The majority of grantor trusts simply leave the surviving spouse in charge of the assets and decisions. Periodically, the trust becomes irrevocable to change or requires additional advisor approval when one spouse is deceased. My legal tools have that stipulation.
Successor trustees take control of your trust at appointed times. The system is very flawed in my opinion, and I have written and discussed that in multiple articles and radio shows over the years. The fact remains, that general provisions can be established for others to care for your needs when you pass or are incapacitated.
Your children are likely the recipients of the task, often without direction or notification. The common view is they are trusted by the parent, are going to inherit the assets anyhow, and work for free! Honestly, most people never give other options a second thought, as they don’t know whom to call or what questions to ask. You can request a checklist for choosing successor trustees at www.fegtrust.com.
The process of changing your successor trustee is not difficult. You don’t start from scratch. You need an amendment to the trust. The legal process is simple. The request for someone to accept the responsibility is often overlooked and underestimated by the person granting the role and the one accepting the job – assuming that person was even aware of this action.
You worked too hard for too long to ignore this part of your financial journey. The loss of a spouse is unimaginable, but it does happen. Barbara and I will be married 35 years in November. I can’t imagine life without her. You likely feel the same about your spouse. Talk to your spouse. Plan today where and when you can have meaningful discussions without emotional turmoil. You will be glad you did. Trust me.
Financial Enhancement Group is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be provided by Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.