Posted on December 1, 2017

Financial Checklist for Newly Widowed Spouses Weekly Update – 11/29/17


Losing a loved one and life partner is a devastating experience that no one can fully predict. Despite the emotional heaviness one must navigate, another pressing topic requires attention: finances. Knowing how to move forward in your financial life after such loss can feel overwhelming and confusing. In fact, according to one study, 23% of widows feel much less confident in their finances after a spouse’s death.[1]With the right guidance, widows can move beyond the confusion and find clarity. 

If you or a loved one have recently lost a spouse, here are some financial items to address:

1. Work with a financial professional
Our brains work differently when under stress, meaning we can make emotionally distraught decisions that can lead to poor choices.[2] A financial professional can serve as a voice of reason and provide educated perspectives to help guide awareness and action. In fact, 61% of widows say that working with financial professionals has the biggest influence on their decisions.[3] You can make the entire process less overwhelming with an objective professional at your side to guide you during this difficult time.

2. Reconcile financial accounts
An important step is to contact all financial organizations with whom you and your spouse held shared accounts, from your bank to mortgage to investments. You will need to alert them of your loved one’s passing and retitle your accounts. You also need to have your spouse’s name removed from any other joint accounts. Addressing these matters will keep your finances accurate and updated, and remove any potential roadblocks.

3. Collect any benefits
Each year, lots of people fail to claim money in the form of benefits, such as payments from pensions, life insurance, annuities, and more. In 2016 alone, people left at least $7.4 billion in life insurance benefits unclaimed.[4] If your spouse listed you as a beneficiary in any accounts, you have some housekeeping to do in order to collect your benefits. And doing so could be a helpful financial boost, especially if you relied on your spouse’s income. To close financial gaps, identify which benefits are available to claim and take prompt action.

4. Identify status of retirement accounts
Was your spouse already taking payments or still paying into a plan? Are you inheriting an IRA? The specific retirement accounts your spouse held will drive your next steps. For example, if you’re inheriting an IRA, your age can affect details like Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).[5] Working with a financial professional can help you identify the best strategies.

5. Revisit your investment strategies
With your spouse no longer involved in financial strategies, now is a good time to revisit your investments and identify if you need to realign anything. For example, you may receive benefit payments that you could redirect to other investment opportunities. Or, your spouse may have taken on more risk than you’re comfortable with. Take a look at how well your investments reflect your needs and future goals-and help ensure your portfolio supports life’s next chapter.

Picking up the pieces after losing a spouse is never easy. If you have recently widowed and seek clarity for the road ahead, please contact us at 408-227-2700. As a Wealth Management firm in San Jose, CA, we’re happy to help.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Casserole


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups kale, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 4 cups tortilla chips


  1. Whisk together eggs, cream, and salt. Add cilantro and both cheeses, continue whisking.
  2. Combine egg mixture with kale, tomatoes, corn, and tortilla chips in a large bowl. Toss gently together.
  3. Place mixture in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish, and cover.
  4. Bake at 400ºF until cheese melts and egg sets, about 30-35 minutes.
  5. Remove lid to brown tops for last 5 minutes in oven.

Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping[6]

Steps to Take If the IRS Sends a Letter

When the IRS needs to communicate with taxpayers about details with their taxes, it will most commonly send a letter in the mail. If you receive a letter from the IRS, you do not need to panic. Instead, here are some steps to take:

1. Read everything thoroughly: Your letter will probably contain specific details and necessary actions. So be sure to read the whole letter.

2. Reply only if requested: You typically do not need to respond to a letter unless the IRS asks you to provide information or make a payment. Further, avoid calling the IRS. Instead, follow the preferred outreach as detailed in the letter.

3. Store the letter: Save any letters or notices that the IRS sends you along with your tax files for the year specified.

4. Respond with discrepancies: Contact the IRS if you believe that the details in the letter are incorrect. To do so, mail the IRS a letter detailing the discrepancy.

Other details may apply, and you can find more information on the IRS website.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

Tip adapted from[7]

Grip Down for Laser-Like Short Irons

Controlling distance is always crucial in golf. And when you are nearly close enough to the pin to strike, mastering this control is essential. When using wedges or short irons, most pros will avoid a full swing, opting instead for 75-80% of their swing.

When in this setup, the best technique is to swing within yourself and take yards off your approach. To do so:

1. Subtract 5 yards from your approach by choking down on the club, gripping halfway to the handle’s bottom.

2. Subtract 10 yards from your approach by gripping the handle all the way down to the steel.

By choosing either of these techniques, you’ll be able to swing a longer club smoothly and with more control. To have more birdie chances, try this grip with all of your scoring clubs.

Tip adapted from Golf Magazine[8]

Foster Good Digestion

When left unchecked, digestive issues can create bloating, heartburn, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, with some simple changes, you can keep digestion healthy and under control. Follow these tips:

  • Eat more plant fiber: Fiber derived from plants will help your digestive tract and encourage regularity. When eating fiber, be sure to increase your water intake, which further aids the digestive process. Fiber-rich plant foods include (but aren’t limited to) vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Chew thoroughly and in small bites: Rather than heaping spoonfuls, make each bite smaller as you eat. From there, chew thoroughly and slowly to aid digestion.
  • Eat enough probiotics: The bacteria that live in our guts are important for healthy digestion. Be sure to eat foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt and fermented foods.

Tips adapted from WebMD[9]

Limit How Much Pesticides You Eat

Unless you specifically buy organic products, the food you’re eating could be laden with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, analyzed food tests to identify how much pesticides are in our foods. They concluded that 70% of the samples from 48 standard produce types had one or more pesticide contaminations.

Some top findings from the study include the following:
Residue from at least 1 pesticide was present on nearly all samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples.

Strawberries with the most contamination had at least 20 different pesticides.

Spinach samples had twice as much pesticides residue by weight as any other tested crop.
To minimize how much pesticides your family consumes, aim to buy organic whenever possible.

Tip adapted from EWG[10]

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