Managing finances after the death of a loved one….
Often the job of organising the family finances falls to one person in a relationship, and they do this without wishing to worry their partner or children with the detail.
When bereavement is sudden and unexpected, it will leave the surviving partner overwhelmed, not just with grief but also the task of trying to make sense of their financial affairs.
The first thing that strikes you from the very start is that dealing with a loved one’s financial affairs is the last thing that you want to do.
My father was fortunately very organised and, even though I have had many years of experience with this kind of thing, nothing quite prepares you for having to deal with your own family's belongings after they are gone.
It feels very emotional going through someone else's things, knowing they were the last person to have put them in that order, in a certain way that was personal to them.
And hidden amongst it all are personal letters, correspondence with friends and family, and the hardest of all, the photographs, awards and old newspaper clippings that he held most dear to him.
It is hard to imagine what it is like for people who may have much less of an understanding of financial and other affairs; who do not know who to ask for help and where to get it, and quite frankly, have no idea where to start.
A trusted financial adviser is a critical resource at this difficult time. When bereavement occurs there are several support services that kick in behind the scenes. The starting point is normally the bereavement services, followed by the 'Tell Us Once' service, which will deal with state pensions and benefits and pass on any entitlements to the surviving spouse.
Many people will ask a lawyer to help with the administration of the will and application for probate. However, it is often after the estate has been settled that clients do not know where to turn next. It is at this point that lawyers will refer clients to us for investment advice.
The beneficiaries at this stage should not rush into any decisions, and, will benefit from solid and trusted financial advice. They should avoid entering into any financial or legal arrangements unless they fully understand them. We will always advise clients not to make major changes to their life while they are still grieving.
However, there is often more practical help that we can provide, such as making sure money is accessible to meet day-to-day expenditure. We can then start to explore together what their objectives may be in the short, medium and longer term.
The ability to empathise with clients at this difficult time is critical, and it is through this process that often the strongest most rewarding client relationships grow.
Wendy is a Chartered Financial planner with over 30 years experience and is a founding director of Colmore Partners.