The Dreaded Phone Call: What to do When a Spouse Dies SuddenlyWhen I picked up the phone, I could hear her crying on the other end of the line.

“Hi, Ellen.”

“Kevin………..Ed passed away.”

As a financial advisor, I get this type of phone call from time to time. It’s always a kick in the gut and incredibly sad. I, myself, start to mourn—it’s not just the loss of a client, but more often than not, a friend. Ed was only 68 years old. I’d known him for fifteen years. Ellen needed me to provide some support. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what to do when a spouse dies suddenly.

The call continued.

“Kevin, I have all of these bills sitting in front of me. And the funeral home wants a $4,000 deposit. I don’t know what to do. I’m getting really nervous. That’s why I’m calling. What do I do?

I was able to tell Ellen about all the changes that were coming her way: documents she’d need to start collecting, how we’d send her some documentation on things to be aware of, how Social Security would be cutting off her husband’s monthly income (and how to deal with that). Most importantly, I told her we’d be there to help her through this difficult period. Of course, I also made plans to attend the funeral.

But here’s the part that made all the difference:

I told her, “Ellen, you have a lot of decisions you’ll be making soon. Many are personal and some are financial. But here’s what I want you to know … don’t spend any time worrying about the finances. We’ve got that covered. Just focus on the family, yourself, and Ed’s funeral.”

Sobbing, she muttered, “Thank you so much, Kevin.”

Who’s your go-to when it hits the fan? Do you know what to do when a spouse dies suddenly? Does your advisor know your spouse? Better yet, are you the spouse that doesn’t know your “husband’s” advisor?

When a couple first arrives at our office to discuss their finances, it’s not uncommon for ONLY one spouse to have a full accounting of their financial lives … most often it is the husband. In fact, 25 percent of women take no part in financial decision making. Finances can be complicated; it’s often analyzed with about as much enthusiasm as cleaning a toilet.

But women have the men licked when it comes to life expectancy, and more times than not, the wife may be the one left holding the reins to the family’s finances upon her husband’s death. Just ask Ellen.

Having an advisor that knows both spouses, can relate to both spouses, and one who has created an arena of trust is imperative. Not only do they help families hit their financial goals, but they give you peace of mind.

If you don’t have that type of advisor/client relationship, I challenge you to find one. You and your families deserve it.