Joint Accounts

How Do I Make Sure My Wife Is Financially Protected When I Die?

Your goal for planning should be to get to a point where you’re able to relax and enjoy your time together

Kristin Wong
Forge
Published in
3 min readJun 24, 2019
Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

My wife and I are both in our late sixties and retired. Our retirement income is close to six figures, with 80% of that being my income. Our house and cars are paid for. We have a comfortable amount of savings that we use only in emergencies.

The problem: When I pass, my wife won’t have much money coming in. My health isn’t great, and I know my wife will outlive me. We married later in life, and because of the way my retirement income is structured, she’s not entitled to it once I’m gone. She likes to spend, but because of the situation she’ll eventually find herself in, I’d prefer to save more aggressively. How can I make sure she’ll be okay financially once she no longer has my income to rely on?

Sincerely,

Worried Spouse

YYou’re smart to be concerned about your wife’s financial future. Many couples don’t even think about the inevitable, much less plan for it. And that’s understandable: Figuring out the probate process — what happens to the assets you leave behind — can be both an excruciating exercise in confronting your own mortality and a logistical slog.

But lack of planning can compound an already heartbreaking situation. Grieving is hard enough. Worrying about money at the same time is a level of emotional exhaustion I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Still, your goal right now should be to get to a place where you can stop worrying so much about the future and enjoy your life together in the present. If you haven’t done so already, schedule an appointment with a Certified Financial Planner familiar with the ins and outs of inheritance laws and estate planning. You’ll also want to retain a lawyer to help you create a will. Legal site Nolo has a quick checklist for getting this done.

You seem sure that your retirement income is structured so that she won’t get any benefits, but when you talk to a financial planner, make sure to ask about your options — your wife might be…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.