As we age, there’s a greater risk we may outlive our spouse. While life expectancy for both men and women have increased over the years, there are uncontrollable events and hereditary health issues which may cause your spouse to die before you.

When a spouse dies, no one can fully understand your grief. Everyone has a unique relationship with their spouse. Some of the things you are experiencing other survivors may understand, but your grieving process is unique to you and your relationship. It can be a long and unpredictable process requiring you to be patient with yourself.

In my post “What to Do When Your Spouse Dies,” I discussed steps to take now and the importance of delaying major financial decisions. Before making major changes that will impact your finances, have a Certified Financial Planner™ professional develop a comprehensive financial plan for you.

A comprehensive financial plan will cover more than investments. It will look at your assets, liabilities, tax situation, income, expenses, insurance, and estate plan. When assessing expenses, it should include health care costs now and anticipated as you age. It should also address long-term care which is not covered by Medicare.

It’ll help you answer questions such as:

Can I afford to stay in my current home or should I downsize?

Do I need to liquidate any assets to pay off liabilities?

Do I have sufficient insurance coverage to protect my assets?

Will I need to return to work? If yes, how will it impact my Social Security benefits?

Will I outlive my money?

What legal documents do I need to have since I no longer have a spouse to handle financial and healthcare decisions?

Through my practice, I’ve seen widows rely on family members to make these decisions. Unfortunately, many family members do not have the experience to understand fully the implications of some financial decisions. While they may have good intentions, they are limited by their experience with these matters.

For example, a widow was encouraged by her son to file for Social Security early after her spouse passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, taking Social Security benefits before full retirement age reduced the amount of money she would receive for the rest of her life.

Another widow was pressured by her stepchildren to sell the vacation home and downsize. When she retained my services, we looked at her full financial situation and determined it wasn’t necessary to make these changes immediately. She had three years before she needed to sell the vacation home or put it on a rental program. This timeframe gave her room to breathe and to become adjusted to life without her spouse.

Your current financial advisor may offer a comprehensive financial plan for minimal or no cost (depending on how much money they manage for you). However, if you want another opinion, hire a CFP® who develops comprehensive financial plans for a flat fee.

Life after a spouse dies can be overwhelming when dealing with financial matters. Hire a CFP® professional to help you look at the big picture and develop a plan for your new life. While we don’t have a crystal ball to see what the future brings, we can take action to plan for financial security.

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Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include spending plan, financial plan, divorce financial review, life strategy, and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”