You may already have a professional and personal support network in place, which is a great start, but it’s important to identify any gaps in your support community and then engage professionals you trust to educate and empower you.So where do you start? Here’s a look at some of the most important professionals you need on your team and the roles they’ll fill in your life.
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A financial advisor is one of the most trusted members of your team. The person you choose should be a paid trustee. Many widows are already in a relationship with a financial advisor upon their spouse’s death, but end up switching to another advisor who feels more suitable.
By some estimates, over 80 percent of widows change from the financial advisor their spouse originally chose. In many cases, the advisor was in a relationship with the deceased spouse and never fully involved the female half in the financial planning and investment processes.
Your financial advisor can help you solve your immediate financial problems, such as liquidating portions of an estate, but their primary purpose is to help you plan for your long-term financial future. For example, you may need to reallocate your investments.
While it may be tempting to leave your allocated investment accounts exactly as they were when your spouse was alive, this move may not be in your best interests. You will have different financial worries as a widow than you had as a couple. You may be considering downsizing, getting closer to grandchildren, or even pursuing a new career. All of these changes will require input from a financial planner to see how your new life will work out best, financially.
Make sure you start by only interviewing financial advisors who are fiduciaries, which will always act in yours best interest and give you independent and impartial advice. A certified financial planner who is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and understands your unique needs and goals can help you get your new financial life back on track.
Estate planning attorney
It’s a good idea to hire an accredited attorney in your area whose primary focus is real estate and trust law. Finding the right attorney can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Your financial planner will likely have many trusted relationships with estate planning attorneys and they can introduce you to a professional in your area.
Alternatively, you can reach out to friends and family for advice or visit the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (opens in a new tab) website and the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (opens in a new tab) website to find a reputable estate planner in your state.
It’s also vital to locate your spouse’s original will and make an appointment to review it with your attorney. If you can’t find the original will, the estate planning attorney who drafted your documents may be able to help you.
Also, discuss any state and federal taxes you owe with your attorney. Be sure to also ask about any unforeseen one-time expenses related to the death. Your attorney will also help you with estate court filings, creditor notifications, and asset distributions, making the process as simple and straightforward as possible.
Therapist, grief counselor or other mental health professional
In addition to addressing your financial future, your emotional and mental health is of paramount importance. The loss of a spouse can be one of the most emotionally wrenching life events we face, next only to the loss of a child. Not only have you lost your life partner, but also the future you had planned together.
Bereavement counseling, also known as bereavement counseling, can be instrumental in helping you cope with the death of your spouse. A good grief counselor will provide a safe space to discuss your feelings while also helping you develop tools and strategies for getting through this difficult time and healing.
Diane Brennan, Loss and Bereavement Specialist (opens in a new tab) suggests: “Working with a counselor is beneficial for widows as they deal with grief and find ways to rebuild their lives after loss. Both individual counseling sessions and support groups can be helpful in introducing tools for grieving. One-on-one counseling offers personalized attention and a private space to process any emotions and feelings related to loss, while support groups provide a place for widows to connect with others they “get” in a safe place. For most widows, the pain never fully goes away, although with time (and counseling), it becomes less acute and stops getting in the way of future happiness.
Pain affects everyone differently and at different times. It’s important not to go through it alone! Your estate planning attorney and financial advisors can likely refer you to a professional experienced in grief counseling.
Psychology todayonline database of (opens in a new tab) it’s also a great tool when you’re looking for a mental health professional to support you.
This article was written by and presents the opinions of our contributing consultant, not Kiplinger’s editorial staff. You can check advisor records with the SEC (opens in a new tab) or with FINRA (opens in a new tab).