Family finances can take a huge hit from the unexpected death of the main breadwinner. Advance planning, even when death seems like a remote possibility, can help.
Several national conversations were launched when two bold-name celebrities— Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain—took their lives. One was about suicide, the other about what happens to families in the face of an unexpected death, from a financial and estate planning perspective.
CNBC’s article, “Sudden deaths like those of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain can devastate family finances,” explains that a number of the leading causes of death in the US are events that happen without warning. These are things like heart disease, accidents, stroke, and suicide, which are among the leading causes of death across the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An unexpected death has a tremendous impact on a family—mentally, emotionally and physically. In addition, it can also affect family finances, depending on the amount of planning the deceased had in place. Think about these items in the event that an unexpected death occurs.
- Get organized. You should secure all of the deceased’s financial and legal documents, along with his or her keys, wallet, and phone. Next, find the will, if there is one. If an executor is named, make sure he or she takes on their responsibility to lead going forward.
- Look to your own mental and financial health. It’s critical to get the support and help that you need, as you grieve.
- Delay major financial decisions for at least a year. Some folks want to make big life changes right away, but experts say to wait. You're grieving and may not be thinking clearly. You may make a decision that you will regret later. If you do need to make a significant financial decision, talk with an attorney first.
Everyone should do estate planning, so that they don’t leave behind a big mess. Work with an attorney to draft the basic estate planning documents, like a will, power of attorney, and healthcare proxy.
When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney to draw up these documents, be sure that to communicate both the name of your attorney who drafted the documents and your wishes to your loved ones.
To make sure that your plans are up to date, review estate planning documents on a regular basis—your estate planning attorney will be able to tell you if you need any minor adjustments, or if larger revisions are necessary. Changes in the law often necessitate a review. The same goes for any major life event, like marriage, separation, divorce, birth, death, adoption, etc.
Reference: CNBC (June 8, 2018) “Sudden deaths like those of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain can devastate family finances”