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Next Financial Steps for Surviving Spouses — Oblivious Investor

As of today, my latest book is available: After the Death of Your Spouse: Next Financial Steps for Surviving Spouses.

Many surviving spouses find themselves overwhelmed by all the administrative and financial to-do items that have to be handled in the months after their spouse’s death. There’s a lot to do, and they’re supposed to get it all done while grieving. And in many cases, the situation is made more difficult by the fact that the surviving spouse is not the one who regularly handled the household finances.

I wrote this book to walk people through it, in plain language. It’s the book I want my spouse to have, in case something happens to me.

Fortunately, some of these to-do items for surviving spouses are important but not urgent. And in fact, for some of these items, it’s best to wait. Many people report experiencing “brain fog” in the weeks or months following their spouse’s death. They find that they have difficulty concentrating and difficulty performing tasks that would normally be easy. Major, irrevocable decisions are best put off until this period is over, in cases in which it’s practical to do so.

That’s why the book is broken down into two parts: immediate next steps and intermediate next steps.

The book’s table of contents is as follows:

Part One: Immediate Next Steps

1. Learn the Terms (The Estate Administration Process)
2. Getting Organized
3. Notifying Necessary Parties
4. Initial Responsibilities as Personal Representative
5. Updating Your Own Estate Plan

Part Two: Intermediate Next Steps

6. Social Security Planning
7. Further Responsibilities as Personal Representative
8. Handling Inherited Retirement Accounts
9. Additional Options as a Beneficiary and Surviving Spouse
10. Tax Returns
11. Reassessing Your Own Finances
12. Reassess Your Portfolio
13. Finding Professional Assistance

Conclusion: What’s Next?

Appendix A: Does an Inheritance Create Taxable Income?

Appendix B: Social Security Widow(er) Benefit Math Details

Appendix C: Dealing with Trusts

My sincere gratitude goes to three attorneys who generously contributed their time and expertise: Lee Aronson of Shreveport, Louisiana; Randi Grassgreen of Boulder, Colorado; and Matthew Sullivan of Waltham, Massachusetts. Bogleheads forum members “LadyGeek” and “dodecahedron” also very kindly gave their time and shared their knowledge and experiences as surviving spouses.

If you think the book would be helpful to you or to a loved one, I would encourage you to pick up a copy. (Print version here, Kindle version here.)

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