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Death is a difficult time and most people tend to shy away from its potential financial consequences until it becomes too late. Typically people shy away from dealing with estate planning issues as long as they can. Unfortunately, when the time comes, survivors have to make critical financial and legal decisions for which they may not be prepared. Moreover, for a survivor grieving the death of a loved one, the pressures of making haste decisions can be emotionally overwhelming. However, there are steps you can take today to prepare yourself for the death of a loved one.
When someone you love dies, there is a lot of confusion about what happens next for you. Below you will find financial planning considerations that you can prepare for in advance that may help you make important financial decisions when the time comes of a loved one’s death, such as concerns over honoring your spouse’s wishes and caring for yourself and your family.
Settle your spouse’s estate
Dealing with an estate transfer and settlement can be a very complicated process and potentially can drag on for an extended period of time such as a year or more. The estate settlement process includes decisions about the distribution of your spouse’s assets and how to handle liabilities such as those that come about from estate taxes. If you are named the executor of your spouse’s estate in your spouse’s will, you will be responsible for making all the financial and legal decisions related to the estate.
Before you make any decisions, the first step is to obtain a copy of your spouse’s will and death certificate. Generally, you will be able to get a copy of the will from your estate attorney that created the document since they usually retain copies. Also, you can get copies of your spouse’s death certificate through your state’s vital statistics office.
Your spouse’s death certificate is important to gain access to bank account information, transfer ownership of securities such as stocks, bonds, and the like, apply for Social Security benefits, and to collect life insurance proceeds and other benefits.
Expenses related to your estate such as outstanding loans, leases, or taxes lower the total value of your estate. Consider having a separate bank account to handle and monitor all of the incurred estate expenses. Make sure to monitor where the money is going and keep accurate records.
Paying off debt
As the executor for the estate, you are required to settle any outstanding debts that are solely in your spouse’s name such as credit card balances and other debt. You can contact any of the credit bureaus to get copies of your spouse’s outstanding debts. You should also provide the credit bureaus a copy of your spouse’s death certificate so that they remove his name from their files. Also, notify all the creditors of your spouse’s death to close all credit cards listed solely under your spouse’s name and transfer any jointly help cards to your name only.
Every state has a probate process and as the executor you play a critical role in the distribution and sale of estate valuables and properties according to the will and your spouse’s wishes. If the will is lacking certain information, the executor would take the responsibility in distributing the decedent’s property at his/her discretion.
Do you have young dependants? The main aim of buying a life insurance policy is to protect them from financial strife in the event of your death.
Young families are vulnerable, so term life insurance is best.
The needs of a young family are special. This necessitates that you not just own a life insurance policy, but that you own one that will take care of your family’s needs as perfectly as possible.
Young families are placed quite precariously from a financial standpoint. Kids are expensive to care for. Young families have several financial obligations like mortgage on the family home; parents may be in the process of saving up for college education while trying their best to keep their family’s monthly expenses within the budget. Their life insurance policy needs to be economical as well as effective. The goal is to have a big enough death benefit to cover all your dependants’ needs and yet be able to make premium payments regularly.
It is very important that young families with many financial obligations consciously opt for a term life insurance policy because it perfectly caters to their needs.
Life insurance checklist
Here’s a useful checklist if you have a young family.
If you already have a life insurance policy, you need to review it. The best way to do this is act as if you are buying a fresh policy. So move over to Step 3.
If you don’t already have a life insurance policy, you need one. Opt for term life insurance.
First determine your needs. An online life insurance needs calculator will help you, as long as you answer the questions in the form as honestly as possible. Even those who have existing policies need to go over this step to help you assess if you have enough coverage, or too little or too much.
The next step is to decide the term of the policy. When do you see your financial obligations getting lighter? For most people this happens when the youngest child is in college, or the last mortgage payment is made. Different families have different needs. Decide on a term based on your particular situation. If you already have a policy, work this out and see if you have the right term on your existing policy.
Now you know what type of life insurance policy you need, for how long you need it and how much life insurance you need. It is now time to decide the variant of term. Within term life insurance, there are several interesting options. This calls for a bit of reading up. If necessary, meet up with a licensed life insurance practitioner. Also read up and consult on the different riders that companies may offer on their life insurance policies. They can add value to your policy, if chosen carefully. If you have an existing policy, go over these variants. Several of them are new, and may not have been in existence at the time you purchased life insurance.
Life insurance purchases necessitate a lot of shopping around. This will help you go over a lot of policies and zero in on ones that best fit your needs. Luckily, this search can be done online, and will only take a few minutes. Use a reputed online life insurance agency website that has hundreds of life insurance companies on its database. Enter the questions asked in the quote request form as honestly as possible. You will instantly receive a list of policies that best match your requirements. If you have an existing policy, follow this step.
It’s time to analyze the quotes you receive. Most reputed online agencies will give you comparison charts and financial analyses for the policies that are presented to you. Use these to narrow down your choice further. If you are an existing policyholder, go over the life insurance quotes and check if any of them are better than your existing policy terms. If so, you need to think about buying a fresh policy. If you opt to buy a new policy, remember to cancel out the old policy only after the first premium on your new policy has been paid out.
Zero in on a policy that you like.
Well, we are not done yet. You will need to list out one or more beneficiaries. You could name your spouse or kids. However, read up on the pros and cons of making a minor a beneficiary of your policy. If you have an existing policy, go over the beneficiaries especially if you have divorced or separated from your partner since you bought the policy.
Make a will and include relevant information about your life insurance policy in your will. However remember that the life insurance proceeds will only go out to the beneficiaries named in your policy because as a rule, beneficiaries named under your insurance policy will supersede beneficiaries named in your will.
Our young ones are precious. With a term life policy, you can take care of them
Have you insured your life? Have you reviewed your policy lately? Is the amount you have insured enough to take care of your family, and will it be enough to pay off your credits and loans? Take a little time every year to review your term life policy so that your kids have a good life until they can take care of themselves, even if you are no longer around to provide for them.
Financial planning is not limited to asset allocation, mutual funds, and fixed-income investments – planning should include every aspect of your life.
Should you apply for that credit card? What type of car insurance should you buy? Should we save for our child’s college or put money in our IRA’s instead? These and many more questions are all part of financial planning.
The Larry Rule – A Little Known Financial Planning Fact
Larry Lindsey is not a famous name, even in financial circles. Currently, Mr. Lindsey is the chief economic advisor to the Bush Administration. In 1996, he was a Federal Reserve Board Governor – and he was denied for a Toys ‘R Us credit card!
To apply or not to apply, that is the planning question. Larry Lindsey, who had excellent credit and a high-income level, set out to demonstrate a flaw in credit scoring algorithms.
He simply applied for every retail store credit card he was offered, and in no time he had “too many inquiries.” Never mind the fact that he had millions in assets and nary a late payment in his 30-year credit history.
Knowing the Larry Rule is key to your financial planning. If you apply for retail store credit cards every time you are asked to do so, it will have negative effects on your credit.
You may then be asked to pay a higher interest rate on your mortgage or home equity loan, which could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Sacrificing $10,000 for a 10 percent discount at Fashion Bug is not smart planning!
Auto Insurance and Financial Planning
Most people think of insurance as a legal necessity, but in reality, it is a financial product, and that’s important to keep in mind. Don’t ever buy insurance just because it’s legally required or in order to give yourself peace of mind. Insurance must serve a financial planning purpose!
You need to have a planning strategy in mind when you purchase auto insurance. The insurance company’s goal is to get you to pay more in premiums than you take out in claims – thus, they profit.
Your goal should to pay as little in premiums as possible in order to be adequately covered. You don’t want to have to use your auto insurance, but at the same time, you don’t want to be subsidizing the bad drivers who take out more in claims than they pay in.
In order to develop a financial planning strategy for auto insurance, it’s important that you become as educated as possible on the subject. Luckily, there are dozens of great sites on the internet that provide free information on the various types of auto insurance plans, and the particular laws of your state.
Everyone has to own some form of auto insurance, and thus it should be the cornerstone of any intelligent planning strategy.
The Financial Planning Dilemma – College vs. Retirement
American parents love their children and will do almost anything to ensure they have every possible advantage. As a result, many parents save for their children’s college instead of saving for their own retirement. This act of selflessness is usually not a good planning strategy.
In order to avoid this mistake, one must have a decent understanding of financial planning tax implications. Most college savings accounts are taxed on some level, whereas financial planning products for retirement purposes generally are not. What’s more, saving for your child’s college can prevent him or her from receiving the maximum financial aid available.
In other words, by foregoing your retirement in favor of your child’s college, you are actually subsidizing the children of less responsible parents – or smarter parents who chose to save for their own retirement, in light of these facts.
College savings plans normally make financial planning sense only for parents with such high incomes that their children would not qualify for financial aid.
There are several good reasons why it is important to review your life insurance coverage periodically. For one thing, when you took out a policy your financial situation was different from what it is today. You may have got married, had additions to your family, got a new job or risen in rank and position at your place of work. Assessing your current financial position will help you adjust your life insurance coverage so that your death benefits will adequately cover your family’s financial needs and keep them well-protected even after you have gone.
Why should you consider increasing your life insurance coverage? Here are a few reasons to review your life insurance coverage:
Marriage. Many people choose to take out a life insurance policy when they are single. This works out to your advantage as the younger you are, the better chances you have of getting premium rates. When you get married, you should consider increasing your life insurance coverage to make sure your surviving spouse is protected against financial loss in case you die an untimely death.
Starting out your life together, you and your spouse may want to consider purchasing a house or beginning a family. You should increase your death benefit to cover the loss of your income, any outstanding debts you may have such a mortgage, and future expenses such as retirement. This may amount to paying a higher premium, but it will ensure that your spouse will not be left in dire financial straits trying to pay off loans and struggling to make ends meet.
Children. The first time you should consider increasing your life insurance coverage is when you get married and the next time you should consider an increase is when you have children. Having a child means a lot more joy in the home, but also a lot of added expenses. You should consider your child’s education fees and college tuition in your death benefit. This amount can be kept as an endowment for your child. With each additional child you have, remember to review your life insurance coverage and make the necessary increase. Your death benefit should include your salary for a number of years, the cost of day care along with education fees and other household expenses you incur within a year. If you cannot increase your coverage to include all of these expenses, you should try to increase the coverage as much as your budget permits.
Getting a hike in salary! A raise in salary should be followed by an increase in life insurance coverage. Why? When your salary gets hiked, you automatically begin enjoying a higher quality of life. Your death benefits should be increased to cover the higher lifestyle that your family will get used to.
Calculating your life insurance coverage
You’ll find online life insurance needs calculator an easy way to arrive at how much life insurance coverage you need. You will need to estimate costs of various categories of expenses. The categories are added up to give you the total amount of life insurance coverage your family will need. Subtract the amount of life insurance you already have. The balance left will give you the amount you need to purchase.
How can you bump up your existing coverage? Ask the life insurance company or the agent who sold you the policy to find out how you can add more life insurance coverage to your existing policy. But remember you do not need to add to your current policy. You could purchase a new policy from a different life insurance carrier. Many people have multiple life insurance policies through different carriers. You would need to mention the various life insurance policies you already own when applying for a new one.
Whether you add to your current coverage or purchase a new life insurance policy to your portfolio, you will need to go through an underwriting process. You may be required to go through a medical and disclose personal information regarding your finances, occupation, etc.
Getting low cost life insurance!
Remember, too, to shop around and buy life insurance online. This is the most convenient and quickest way to get low cost life insurance! Most people don’t realize that life insurance is a competitive business. Rates may differ from carrier to carrier. Some life insurance companies may also offer free riders that could save you money in the future. For instance, if you have a waiver option, your policy will not lapse if you miss a payment. Always shop around for the best bargains and purchase your policy from life insurance companies who have excellent financial strength and ratings to prove it.
Online insurance providers allow you access to instant life insurance quotes. You’ll get the best life insurance quotes from carriers who have an excellent reputation for payouts. Receiving multiple quotes allows you to compare life insurance rates and products. Many of these online life insurance providers also offer their professional services. They can answer any questions you may have about life insurance, identify important issues and present meaningful recommendations to you