It can be very difficult to cope with the loss of a life partner, regardless of whether their passing was sudden or if you had time to prepare. The grief and sorrow that follows adjusting to the reality of life without that person can be a gradual process that comes and goes in waves. If you have children, they may also look to you for support as they come to terms with their own loss.
In time, getting yourself organised for a different future will be important. Here are some of the things you may need to work through.
It’s common for partners to nominate one another as both beneficiaries and executors of their respective wills. An executor is legally responsible for distributing an individual’s assets according to their wishes. This can only be done once probate is granted by the court and any outstanding debts are discharged.
If your partner has appointed you to this role, your duties may include notifying any other beneficiaries of their entitlements, closing bank accounts, liaising with superannuation funds, advising Centrelink open in new window and the Australian Taxation Office open in new window of the death, and arranging for assets to be valued and sold.
Depending on the complexity of your partner’s affairs, this can be a big job and it may be helpful to take advice from your lawyer, accountant or financial adviser as you go along.
Your financial circumstances may change following your partner’s death and in due course it makes sense to evaluate your position and adjust your household spending if necessary. A helpful way to track your current spending, and estimate if you need to adjust it, is through a Budget calculator, which can help you work out exactly how you’re spending your money.
If you and your partner shared the responsibility for managing your financial affairs, taking sole charge is unlikely to be a major issue, but if you’ve been accustomed to relying on them to deal with money matters it can be a little more challenging, at least to begin with.
You may wish to seek help from a trusted friend or relative who can help you work through the bills and budgets until you feel confident taking the reins for yourself. If you feel more comfortable confiding in a third party, a financial adviser can help you get to grips with your affairs and help you ensure your funds are invested appropriately for your circumstances.
Whether to remain in the same home or sell up and move is a question many people find themselves pondering in the months following their loss. If you’re struggling to keep on top of cleaning, gardening and maintenance, feel like you’re rattling around in a place that was just right for two but too large for one, or would like to relocate closer to family, downsizing can be an attractive option.
If you decide to consider this path, it can be helpful to review downsizer contributions for more information. This enables Australians aged over 65, who meet eligibility requirements, to use the proceeds from the sale of their home to top up their superannuation by up to $300,000.
Alternatively, you may decide to stay put and pay for some regular or occasional help with any chores you’re not able to manage.
It’s sensible to resist sudden moves and wait until you feel physically and emotionally ready before weighing your options and deciding what’s best for you.
Your partner’s death may necessitate changes to your own estate planning. If the two of you had Power of Attorney (POA) over each other’s affairs, you may wish to appoint another family member or trusted friend to take over the role for you in their stead. A POA is a legal document authorising an individual of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf in a variety of circumstances.
Your partner may also be the nominated beneficiary for your superannuation benefit and life insurance policy and, if so, you will need to update these to reflect the change in circumstances. You may want to seek advice from a qualified professional to help you with this.
The weeks and months following bereavement can be a vulnerable time. Unfortunately, not everyone who offers assistance or advice will have your best interests at heart – financial scammers can view you as a soft target. It’s therefore wise to discuss any financial proposals with someone you trust to make sure you understand it, and are comfortable with it, before committing yourself to anything.
Taking good care of yourself as you come to terms with your new situation and deal with the accompanying challenges can make it a little easier to cope.
Eat well, take regular exercise, attend social events when you feel ready and don’t be afraid to accept the support of family and friends to help you get through this difficult time.
Any advice and information on this website is general only, and has been prepared without taking into account your particular circumstances and needs. Before acting on any advice on this website you should assess or seek advice on whether it is appropriate for your needs, financial situation and investment objectives.
Any general tax information on this website is intended as a guide only and is based on our general understanding of taxation laws. It is not intended to be a substitute for specialised taxation advice or an assessment of your liabilities, obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under taxation law, and we recommend you consult with a registered tax agent.
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