Dealing with the loss of a partner can be a very difficult time. As you start to pick up the pieces, it’s going to be a question of taking just one step at a time whether that’s emotionally or financially. But at some stage, you’re probably only too well aware that you’ve got to take over the reins of the family finances.
It well may be the first time you’ve ever had to do so, and you may be unsure as to what your financial situation actually is. If your partner dealt with it all, you may have no idea where to begin. To say that it’s daunting is an understatement, but you don’t have to manage it all alone, or be rushed into making important decisions.
Go at your own pace
When you’re ready, start by gathering whatever paperwork you can find. The sort of documents you are looking for include:
- Bank and credit card statements
- A Will
- Insurance policies
- Loan and lease documents
- Stock and dividend certificates
- Mortgage statements and property deeds
- Household bills
- Pension details, details relating to any partnership or limited company, an
- Tax returns
As you gather the information together, you might consider putting them into one of two piles:
- Short term – managing normal, everyday household expenditure
- Longer term – managing all your assets and income for the future
Don’t worry too much about whether the information makes sense, or whether documents are up to date, and don’t worry if it takes you some time to gather the paperwork together, or whether it’s incomplete.
If you’re in any doubt about what you need to do, or whether you can afford or need to make certain payments, seek advice.
There will be days when you just can’t face going through papers. Equally there may be family or friends who can spare a few hours to assist. Your professional advisers (i.e. your solicitor or financial planner) are normally experienced “financial detectives” – meaning that they used to having to trace assets and find forgotten policies and other documentation.
Short term household expenditure
In the short term, you need to put together a list of what your everyday income and outgoings are. You will also need to start notifying various organisations such as your mortgage provider, insurance companies or pension provider. Your main focus at this stage however should just be paying all the essentials. Don’t make any major decisions. If you’re in any doubt about what you need to do, or whether you can afford or need to make certain payments, seek advice.
Choosing the right professionals
Family, friends, your solicitor, accountant or financial adviser may be able to help with all the above. You may or may not already have a team of professional advisers you use. The important thing is to make sure that you are working with professionals who you can trust and who really understand the situation you’re in. Of course, by that we don’t mean just your legal situation. We mean the fact that you may not be ready for certain big decisions, and you may not understand some of the finances or financial implications. In fact, you may want someone to explain things to you simply – and more than just once! You want to feel confident and comfortable asking for support and advice on a regular basis. The right professionals will understand all of that and it should be an integral part of the service they offer.
Meet the family
You may also want to take a friend or family members to meetings with your professional advisers, and that’s something at we actively encourage. We’ve found over the years that it’s enormously reassuring to have a second person (or third or fourth) with you, taking it all in. It also helps us too, as close family members often have useful insights or information about the family situation which you may have forgotten about or didn’t realise were important.
How can your financial adviser help?
We can help in a number of ways, and from very early on to the longer term.
Preparing for probate
Probate is the process of dealing with the property, money and possessions of the person who has died. In short, the process involves identifying all of the assets and liabilities, working out who is entitled to what, accounting for any tax liabilities and getting permission to distribute the assets in the proper manner. Normally, you will have a solicitor who deals with probate on your behalf, but it can be helpful to involve your financial planner. We may be able to help trace assets for example and make suggestions. We may also be able to offer you valuable reassurance, that financially, you are going to be ok.
The important thing is to make sure that you are working with professionals who you can trust and who really understand the situation you’re in.
Keeping things on track in the short term
If you have joint assets or assets in your soul name, we may be able to re-organise your investment accounts, transfer assets, close or consolidate unnecessary accounts and or sort through your partner’s retirement and work benefits. This can all make a considerable difference in the early days as you work out what your regular outgoings are and how you are going to pay them!
Medium term – starting to manage your finances
Managing the family assets can be daunting, whether they’re complex or relatively straightforward. Our aim is to support you step by step as you get to grips with this, and we think having someone you trust who can advise you is enormously important as you build up your confidence.
Decisions about your home
We’ll start by getting a clear idea of what your current financial situation is and what that means for your future. An important part of this often involves whether you can afford or want to stay in your current home. This is an emotional and complex decision which shouldn’t be rushed. Whether or not it’s possible or the right thing to do will depend, but it is vital that you have someone neutral who you can trust to guide you through the decision-making process.
Cash flow planning
Our cash flow planning service is immensely powerful. Apart from your home, we’ll look at the overall picture of your income, savings, investments and spending plans. Can you afford a new car or a holiday? Do you need to cut back or can you afford to spend a little more? Are there areas where we could increase or stabilise your personal wealth with a more sensible investment strategy or by consolidating pensions? Knowing the answers to these sorts of questions will give you confidence as well as ensuring you remain in a financially secure situation.
Helping you with the day to day
Finally, we can also help you manage your assets and finances from a practical point of view. Sometimes, that’s just a matter of explaining jargon or what to do when you receive certain documents. Sometimes it may involve advising you and helping you to make informed decisions. The point is, we’ll step in to support you at what level you want, from giving advice to managing it for you.
Long term – planning a future
In the immediate aftermath of your loss planning your future may seem unthinkable. But there will come a day when you’re ready to do that. And at this stage, we recommend our Life Planning process.
With our help, you’ll gradually take stock of your life and start to think about what you want from your future. You might want to leave assets to your family, be contemplating foreign travel or just doing something you never thought possible. Hard as it is to believe, there is life after loss. We’ll work with you to identify what sort of future you want and then we’ll create a financial plan that enables you to enjoy your future, whatever that may hold for you.
However lonely and daunting the present and future may feel at the moment, support and advice are only a phone call away. Take one step at a time and do ask for help when you need it. At such a difficult time, you really don’t want to be worrying about your financial situation.