The Financial Burdens of Losing Your Spouse

June 03, 2016

In the book, "Sudden Wealth… Blessing or Burden?" authors David Rust and Shane Moore talk about the death of a spouse as one of the ways that sudden wealth occurs. Remember, sudden wealth is anytime you are suddenly responsible for managing substantially more money than ever before. In the death of a spouse, it is not uncommon for financial management to be a new burden that may have been previously handled by the spouse who passed away. Add to the loss of a spouse, the responsibility for any insurance payouts or other financial benefits that may be available; responsibilities for other existing financial accounts and investments; and, a future of moving forward without your partner, and the tasks at hand can be overwhelming, to say the least. As the founding partners of Quartz Financial, David and Shane provide clients with guidance and support, specializing in sudden wealth clients.

“Was the death expected?”

“The biggest challenge we have in working with a client who has lost a spouse is in providing guidance and direction, while recognizing their emotional state. There is a lot for the surviving spouse to do, and the emotional challenges add further complication,” commented Moore. “The first question that helps us better understand what challenges the surviving spouse may be facing is if the death was expected. If there was a long illness or age that may have given the spouse time to prepare emotionally, the surviving spouse may be in a better place to handle the challenges.”

Rust added, “Of course, the opposite is usually true if the death was unexpected. We adjust the amount of information and pace of what needs to happen, based on the answer to this question. We know that either way, losing a spouse can be one of the most difficult things a person faces. Although some things need to happen rather quickly, we try not to overwhelm, but instead, take care of these clients.”

Quartz Financial has developed a process for guiding a surviving spouse through the financial burdens that can accompany the situation. That process is implemented in a very measured fashion, and specific to both the emotional and financial state of the surviving spouse. Often, a new client is referred from a personal attorney or other trusted advisor. An introductory meeting allows Quartz to find out more about the client and establishes a level of comfort for moving forward. Rust and Moore explain the process, what to expect, and suggest a collaboration with other trusted professionals, including an estate attorney, accountant and even a psychologist to support the financial, legal, tax and emotional strain of the situation.

Following the process, Quartz can assist with collecting on insurance, aggregating financial investments and accounts, and creating a plan for moving forward. While often investments are already in place, sometimes those investments are in many different places. During the introductory meeting and subsequent meetings, Rust and Moore find out what is most important to the surviving spouse. While a client may be dealing with adjustments to their family and emotional state, Quartz can provide behind the scenes support to help them, including what can be consolidated, what can or should be moved, and other tactical financial activities. This can be a daunting process, so the support in discovering and adjusting, with a financial plan for moving forward, makes a difference.

Sensitivity is critical to the surviving spouse.

Another important difference in supporting a surviving spouse is to communicate effectively. “We tell them how they’re doing in the process so they can understand the progress they are making, and see an end in sight. This helps from an emotional perspective, as much as from a practical perspective,” noted Rust.

Moore stated, “Sometimes a surviving spouse needs support in gaining confidence in handling financial decisions they may not have made before. In one situation, a husband died unexpectedly, which left the wife in a very fragile state. We moved at a slower pace, based on priorities, so as to not overwhelm her. We knew when we could push pause, and not hurt anything. That gave her the confidence and comfort for moving forward at her pace.”

If you want more information on how to prepare and manage sudden wealth, read, “Sudden Wealth, Blessing or Burden,” written by Rust and Moore, or contact Quartz Financial at (512) 243-5977. They’re not only the wealth advisors who specialize in sudden wealth, they wrote the book on it!