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In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Gary Altman describes the financial strain placed on spouses and families when proper planning isn't done.
It's a far too common scenario: One spouse passes away, leaving the surviving spouse with little to no access to their financial accounts. This is often the result when one partner is solely responsible for the family finances.
Altman shares a story about a client who had to turn to her brother-in-law to cover bills after her husband died. Money was not the issue. It was a matter of accessibility. Some of their accounts were in her husband’s name alone and financial institutions often freeze single-owner accounts when a person dies.
“Her spouse died with assets in his own name, and their joint accounts were not large enough [to cover daily expenses]", Altman said. The client eventually got court authorization to manage her husband’s accounts, but the situation could have easily been avoided.
Financial confusion and constraints compound the stress of losing a loved one. Advanced estate planning plays a critical role in minimizing the emotional and financial burden left on survivors.