Mark Colgan, an advisor in Rochester, New York, and president of Eastside Financial Education, lost his wife when she was just 28 years old. It led him to specialize in the needs of survivors, and he has outlined six steps for advisors working with widows and widowers.
Step 1: Help Them Organize
The mountain of paperwork from banks, insurance companies, mortgage companies, closely held businesses, etc. can easily overwhelm survivors. Help them work through it.
Step 2: Recommend an Attorney
The appropriate trusts and estate attorney--and other legal specialists as needed--can identify the planning issues that lead to comprehensive solutions.
Step 3: Align Investments for Sufficient Liquidity
Many widows--even those with a high net worth--can face liquidity challenges. Especially during the months following a death, expenses can outpace income before assets are available.
Step 4: Review and Collect Benefits
Identify all sources of possible benefits such as beneficiary retirement assets and employer benefits, and life insurance from all sources, not just those owned directly, but policies through a business, employment, or even a social organization.
Step 5: Review Assets and Liabilities
Before the survivor can settle the estate, you need to identify all assets, which would include any business interests, investments, retirement accounts, real estate, artwork, collectibles, vehicles, and so forth. On the other side of ledger, the survivor will also need guidance in listing all debts and liabilities.
Step 6: Settle the Estate
Once you've determined the assets and liabilities, settle the deceased's estate, identifying the value of all property and filing the estate tax return within nine months.