More times than not, one spouse predominantly manages the finances while the other spouse feels comfortable giving up that responsibility. There are often questions among the spouses about the type of assets they have, where the assets are located, and whether the assets are in their trust or in their joint names. While both spouses are alive and competent, the idea of dividing and conquering the household responsibilities may work; however, when the spouse that managed the finances becomes incapacitated or passes away, the surviving spouse is not prepared.
The surviving spouse sometimes does not know that certain assets exist, the terms of the investment, or who the financial advisor is that they may call on for advisement. This leaves the surviving spouse frustrated because they lack control. They are often angry at their predeceased spouse for allowing them to be complacent and they are upset with themselves that they were not more involved. At a time when they should be grieving, they are now responsible for managing the household income and expenses and are responsible for investing the assets, without having any background knowledge.
I encourage all of my clients to be jointly involved with the management of the finances. If you have not been involved thus far, start now. For a detailed list of things you should know, review Marta Williger’s article featured on the National Elder Law Foundation website.