How to Manage Your Money as a Widow
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Take control of your finances after the loss of your spouse.

You and your husband spent years together building your wealth. Now, as a widow, you’re facing a new reality of managing it alone instead of as a team. It may seem daunting, but your trusted financial advisor can help you wade these uncertain waters and eventually feel confident taking the financial reins.

“Your relationship with your advisor should be built on trust and respect,” says Marlee Dailey, Vice President and Trust Advisor for Regions Private Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “Sometimes, a woman’s first major financial inclination as a new widow is to change advisors.” While it’s your prerogative to assemble your own dream team, she advises against making immediate changes because your current advisors are familiar with your financial situation.

Your Financial To-Do List

Your advisor can help you identify all of the paperwork you’ll need to gather and all of the practical matters you’ll need to consider as you plan your next steps:

  • Obtain multiple certified copies of your spouse’s death certificate
  • Gather the will, trusts, and life insurance policies
  • Access your safe deposit box
  • Account for all assets (deeds, securities, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options)
  • Account for all liabilities (mortgages, debts)
  • Retitle real estate and other assets
  • Change joint bank, mutual fund, and brokerage accounts to your name

“Your accountant and other advisors can help locate documents in the event they are not stored in a single location,” Dailey says. “A tax return is a great roadmap to finding investment and bank accounts, mortgage documents, and other financial information.”

Making a Plan to Move Forward

You then need to assemble the financial documents and records requested by your advisor to calculate how much money you will need to live on each month. If your husband had retired, loss of income may not be an issue. However, household responsibilities covered by your spouse (for example, mowing, pool maintenance, dog walking) may become a budget line item in his absence.

You also can review your investment portfolio and estate plan with your advisor. “You may see opportunities to adjust your investments to better reflect your risk tolerance, priorities, and values,” Dailey says.

During this emotional time, however, it’s best to move slowly and not make major financial decisions or purchases, she says. It probably will take a few months to fully understand your new financial reality. By empowering yourself with a complete understanding of your financial situation, you can be well positioned for the future.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.