Personal Finance

What steps do I take if I lose my partner?

Updated: 2013-01-30T21:18:29Z

By PETER J. HARTWICK

For men and women, the loss of your partner, by choice or not, is one of life’s most difficult transitions.

It simultaneously presents financial, social, intellectual and emotional cross-currents — and an overwhelming barrage of “to-do” items.

But with clear goals and a good checklist, someone under great stress can avoid the worst: decisions setting a bad course that can be difficult to correct.

And it may seem obvious, but the most important advice for couples is this: Do these things now, before death or divorce occurs. It will ease the burden later.

First, get organized. Gather investment and bank statements, insurance policies, and mortgage and other loan documents. This inventory of records will help create financial stability.

Everyone should know where and how to access financial resources, and have a sheet listing logins and passwords, contacts, and other key details.

Next, understand how it all fits together. During this phase, confusion and emotions may take over. For example, in a divorce, many women take keeping the home instead of retirement assets. That may be compelling at the time but not in a person’s long-term best interests.

Take your time.

Frequently, future financial assets you have already earned, such as Social Security, are overlooked. Set a budget for yourself. Balance short-term and long-term requirements.

Men and women have similar needs but not necessarily of the same kind or degree. Depending on circumstances, income earning potential may vary greatly. It’s been my experience that this is more keenly felt by many women. Another factor women need to consider is, statistically, that they live longer.

Peter J. Hartwick is a private wealth manager at Personal Financial Group and a member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City.

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