I realize that you feel your life is out of control. You are depressed and angry. You have difficulty making decisions. Your energy level is low. You are on an emotional roller coaster, crying one minute and laughing the next. What you are experiencing is natural and more important, is temporary. You will regain control. Your depression and anger will abate. Your ability to make decisions will return. Your energy level will return to normal. And your emotions will stabilize.

Unfortunately the financial issues that arise immediately after your husband’s death will not wait until you are feeling stronger. These problems cannot be ignored or put on a back burner until you feel ready to tackle them.

Here are the first 4 steps to re-taking control of your financial life:

1. Establish a Workspace
Establish a permanent workspace by setting aside a table or desk for correspondence
and recordkeeping. At an office supply store buy a box of manila folders, a calculator, a box of plain stationery with envelopes, and a plastic storage box with cover to hold the manila folders.

2. Recordkeeping
If your husband was the family “record-keeper” before his death, the responsibility
will now be yours. Take the time to set up an efficient recordkeeping system and eliminate the frustration that comes from searching for something that you know you have but just can’t find. File all important papers in separate manila folders. Label each folder and place them in alphabetical order in a large storage box or file cabinet.

3. Locate and Organize Information
During the next few months you will need specific items of information. If
you take the time to locate and organize the information now you will save
time and energy later on. The information you will need to locate and organize is:
1. Information about your assets, debts, income and expenses.
2. Information that may be located in a safe deposit box.
3. Tax returns for the last three years.
4. Your husband’s will, if one exists.
5. Your husband’s military discharge papers, if he was in the military.
6. Any insurance policies insuring your husband’s life.
7. Recent statements for bank accounts, investments, IRAs, 401ks, annuities.
8. Fifteen certified copies of your husband’s death certificate.
9. Birth certificates for all family members.
10. Marriage license.
11. Closing or escrow papers received when you purchased real estate.
12. “Buy-Sell Agreement” and all other documents related to your
husband’s ownership of a business.

As you locate an item, place it in a separate manila folder, label the
folder, and store the folder in alphabetical order in the storage box.

4. Make a Reminder Calendar
A Reminder Calendar alerts you to deadlines and important dates and
helps you keep track of checks and other items that you are expecting to
receive by mail.

Use a wall or pocket calendar with large spaces. Write a brief description of each deadline directly on the calendar at the date at which the deadline occurs. Also write on the calendar, a reasonable number of days BEFORE the date of the deadline, a reminder of the deadline and the date of the deadline.

For example, your federal and state tax returns will be due April 15th.
On the calendar at April 15, write, “Tax returns due today”. Also record a
reminder to yourself a reasonable number of days before the date of the
deadline so that you have sufficient time to complete the task. In this example
you would write on the calendar space at January 15, “Tax returns due April 15th.”

Also use your reminder calendar to keep track of items that you are expecting to receive by mail. For example, if your husband’s employer said you would receive an application for benefits by June 7th, write on the calendar space at June 7 “Form received from XYZ Employer?” A Reminder Calendar is an invaluable tool. It forces you to keep track of important dates and it frees you from the responsibility of having to remember so many things at once. To be useful, however, you must enter every important deadline on the Reminder Calendar AND you must review the calendar EVERY SINGLE DAY. Place the calendar in a location that allows you to use it regularly and review it daily.

Your next step is to make a list of your assets and debts and a list of our income and expenses.

Julie A. Calligaro is probate and estate planning attorney with 25 years of experience and the author of The Widow’s Resource and Arranging Your Financial And Legal Affairs. .
Demery Publishing
20600 Eureka Ste 900
Taylor, MI 48180
734 283 1509
Fax 734 246 8635

Author's Bio: 

Julie A. Calligaro is probate and estate planning attorney with 25 years of experience and the author of The Widow’s Resource and Arranging Your Financial And Legal Affairs.