Retirement is a time for married couples to enjoy their newfound freedom and live life on their terms. It’s a time to travel, pursue favorite hobbies and passions, and enjoy connecting with each other and family.
While retirement should be a celebratory event, it can also bring unique challenges. Some of those challenges may be difficult to think about or discuss. If you don’t acknowledge these challenges, though, you could put yourself and your spouse in a risky financial position.
Perhaps one of the most difficult conversations to have as a married couple is a discussion about end-of-life issues. While you may not want to talk about it, it’s likely that one of you may live for years or even decades after the first spouse passes away.
It’s important for couples to talk about this event so they can plan adequately. The death of a spouse can be difficult not only from an emotional perspective, but also from a financial vantage point. Below are a few questions for you and your spouse to consider:
What assets, insurance policies and income streams are available for the surviving spouse?
Often with married couples, one spouse has a better understanding of the finances than the other spouse. That can create problems if the spouse who handles the finances passes away. The surviving spouse may be forced to sort through statements and track down accounts during a period that is already emotionally difficult.
You can eliminate stress and anxiety by creating an inventory of all your assets and accounts. The document should include a title for the asset or policy, the contact information for the firm that manages the asset and an estimate of the asset’s value. You may also want to include items such as Social Security benefits, military survivor benefits and pension benefits. The surviving spouse can then use this document to get their financial affairs in order.
What do you want your legacy to be?
You and your spouse may already have created a will and possibly even a trust. However, life changes quickly. If you created those documents years ago, it’s possible that they don’t accurately reflect you and your spouse’s current wishes.
Review your current planning documents, including wills, trusts and more. Has anything changed with your situation that would impact your estate and how it is distributed? Are there new children or grandchildren in the family who aren’t included in your current plan? Has the value of your assets increased, making it possible for you to leave more to your loved ones than you had originally anticipated? Do you now have a desire to leave assets to charity?
It never hurts to consult with an estate planning professional. They can discuss your goals and objectives with you, and then review your current documents. If needed, they can help you revise or create new documents that better reflect your wishes.
What are your end-of-life wishes?
Unfortunately, many people spend their final days or weeks in a hospital or other health care facility, or being cared for in their home. If your spouse develops a cognitive issue like Alzheimer’s, they may spend much of their final years in a state of incapacitation, a condition in which they are not able to communicate their own decisions and desires.
Now may be the time to discuss end-of-life care with your spouse. Do you both want to be kept alive during certain health challenges? Are there any conditions in which you would not want doctors to save your life? Who should make decisions on your behalf?
By having this discussion, both of you will fully understand the other’s wishes. You will then be able to make more informed decisions regarding each other’s health care should one of you become unable to make those decisions yourself.
Are you and your spouse ready to have this difficult conversation? If so, let’s talk about it. Contact us at Carstens Financial Group. We can help facilitate this conversation and help you and your spouse become better prepared. Let’s connect soon.
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