Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday, August 30, 2020
Losing a lifelong partner who shared in life’s many responsibilities such as finances, home maintenance, cooking or arranging social activities can leave a giant void.
Inevitably, most of us must one day face the reality of going from “We” to “Me.”
How do couples best prepare for this major life change? What planning is needed to make sure that life goes on without major disruption to the surviving partner? How can you reduce the stress so that you’re free to grieve without additional worries?
Like most things in life, there is no single answer which fits everyone’s situation. However, experts say there are two truths that couples should recognize and deal with. 1) It is an inevitable fact of life that at some point we will find ourselves without our spouse, and 2) For most of us, we fail to adequately plan for the day we will be without our spouse.
You shared a life, but without proper planning, you may learn that you didn’t share everything you need to know after a spouse dies.
Many households split responsibilities. There is the 50 percent of things you can find easily, but there is the other 50 percent you know little about — from things which have big financial implications to struggles finding the password for the storage of wedding and baby photos. All of these can create unnecessary stress.
What about access to your spouse’s computer or online accounts? It’s not uncommon with the increased use of online services by senior adults to be locked out of things like online brokerage accounts.
You talked about major expenditures, but there are probably dozens of little things concerning your finances you never discussed. Confronting the paperwork following the death of a spouse can be overwhelming and filled with unexpected complications.
An upcoming free online seminar will address these and many other questions about things to consider so that transitioning from your life as “We” to “Me” is less stressful.
Without proper planning and communication, things which could have taken five seconds to write down may take hours or days to figure out, and some things may never be resolved.
“It’s like the $35,000 investment a widowed client could not access because she didn’t have the password to her husband’s online account,” said seminar co-host Brett Junell. “It took weeks of stress dealing with the brokerage before she was able to prove her right to the investment.”
Another example is a widow who notified her primary credit card issuer of her husband’s death. They immediately canceled her credit card. It turned out he was the owner and his wife was just a user.
Another widow found herself with a huge and valuable gun collection. It took nearly a year to find the paperwork for each gun, sell it and deal with the proceeds as part of the estate.
Then, there was the widower who had to untangle his mother-in-law’s finances. His wife had always handled that.
Social engagement can also be problematic for surviving husbands if their wives have always been the one to keep in touch with friends and family.
All of these scenarios could have been avoided by planning. For many couples, the place to start is with what might be called “The Talk.”
Talking about death and life after a spouse dies is not easy. It’s emotionally excruciating for some. While not easy, it is necessary to learn about the other 50 percent — all the information one spouse has taken responsibility for over the years.
Planning and documenting decisions while both spouses are healthy and able to participate in the planning are the most important parts of the process.
Bring family into the conversation if it makes it easier. You may need a team of professionals to support and guide you, during and after. Talk to friends who have gone through the loss of partner. Envision a future without your spouse.
Some things to consider include creating estate planning documents, ensuring accounts are in joint names with correct beneficiaries, clearly identifying all assets, stating your wishes for personal belongings, and much more.
Kristine Delgado of Clearwater at Rancharrah, Reno’s newest Assisted Living and Memory Support community, cautions that it is not all about financial considerations.
“Too often we think of all the logistics – paperwork, insurance, wills, household maintenance – handling all the ‘tasks’ of daily living that the deceased partner may have tackled,” Delgado said. “Preparing in that way is critical but not the only support someone may need. Too often the emotional and social support that’s needed most is overlooked because of the logistics. The ability to find a way to ‘lean back into life’ as opposed to isolation and depression. It could come from a wide variety of places including senior living, support groups, organizations, and therapists.”
What about grief counseling? How will your everyday needs differ? What will your income be? Do you need to re-title household bills in your name? How do you claim monthly Social Security survivor benefits based on the amount your spouse would have received? What to do with the family home?
The seminar will address these and many other questions. You are encouraged to have your questions and concerns ready.
For those interested in learning more, the seminar titled The Truth about Going from WE to ME, will be held September 8 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. via Zoom or call in. The webinar is free to seniors and their guests.
Registration can be made online at www.RetiredLivingTruthSeries.com or by calling (775) 432-6398 to receive Zoom Webinar access & instructions.
The seminar is part of the ongoing Retired Living Truth Seminar Series organized by Annette & Brett Junell and supported by leading community organizations. Their mission is to educate, empower and equip retirees. These free 90-minute educational seminars are held monthly and designed to help people make informed decisions.
Upcoming seminars / webinars in the Retired Living Truth Seminar Series include:
– October 8: The Truth about Finding Untapped Resources
– November 17: The Truth about Who Should be on Your Team
This month’s spotlight sponsors are:
– Clearwater at Rancharrah
Assisted Living & Memory Support community. (775) 900-0319
– Schulze Law Group (775) 853-5700
Elder Law, Estate & Retirement Planning Attorney