Preparing for Widowhood

According to population statistics, women outlive their spouses by a high percentage.  With that fact in mind, we have to ask, are women prepared to be a widow?  That may be a morbid question, but one that needs to be addressed.

Many times, women find themselves not only having to deal with the loss of their husband, but also having to learn about budgets the hard way because they were never familiar with the family finances.  This can place a burden on the surviving spouse that is unnecessary with proper planning.

So men, how do you plan for your wife’s widowhood?  There are several things you can do.  First of all, both of you should be well aware of your current financial situation.  Be sure to review your Social Security and pension benefits.  What would your wife receive if you died first?  Many times the amount the surviving spouse gets is ½ to 1/3 of what both were living on.  You may want to increase your retirement contributions and/or delay retirement to be sure you have adequate retirement income.  Life insurance may be an option you need to consider.

Next, review your retirement healthcare benefits.  Check into long term care and Medicare supplement insurance policies.  Make sure that both of you have the proper documents in place, such as healthcare directives and living wills, and that you know where they are kept.

Once you know what your financial situation is, consider how your property is titled.  For example, a change in the title of your home may allow your spouse to own it outright at your death without having to drag it through probate.  This may be done on other assets as well.  Be sure to consult with an attorney or financial planner about specifics to be sure this is done properly.

The most important thing you need to do, however, is to make sure both of you have a will that is up to date.  If you don’t have one, the State of South Carolina does, and it most likely will not distribute your assets the way you would want them to be distributed.  Remember, one of the best ways to show your wife that you love her is to take care of her, both now and after you are gone.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S.. federal tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

About the Author
Valerie, the Foundation's Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, is a certified public accountant and certified financial planner. She joined the Foundation in 2000 and has over 20 years' experience in the financial and estate planning fields. Valerie is responsible for investment oversight, estate planning, audit, tax, and account management.

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