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Carol woke up this morning a widow.

Bill and Carol were married nearly 50 years and the last thing on their agenda was Bill dying.

Two weeks ago, without warning, Bill suffered a sudden and deadly heart attack.

The funeral has passed. Family and friends have come and wished her the best.

The reality is starting to sink in for Carol. She now faces the task of not only putting her life together emotionally, but financially as well.

Where should she start, and what does she need to consider?

First is a budget organizer.

It is important to know what the expenses will be now that Bill is gone. Housing, transportation, debts, taxes, and personal expenses must be considered.

Every source of income must be itemized; including Social Security, pensions, IRAs, job and investment income.

Next, a balance sheet should be prepared.

This is simply a list of assets and liabilities.

Like it or not, bills have to be paid. These may include debts like mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, and personal debts.

All life insurance must to inventoried.

Each policy should be analyzed and researched. Some old, and apparently lapsed, policies may have some value. Never assume.

It is helpful to have a list of all the advisors. It may include the attorney, accountant, insurance agents, stockbrokers, financial planners, and bank or trust officers.

A document checklist would also be helpful for Carol and Carol’s heirs.

It may include birth certificate, marriage license, pre-or post-nuptial agreements, will, trust, mortgage papers, income tax returns, insurance policies, automobile title papers, gift tax returns, passport, military records, citizenship papers, warranties, funeral/burial documents and business documents if appropriate.

Next is a list of the disposition of personal property.

It may be included in the will or trust, but often the smaller personal items are missed. List them here.

Most families have multiple retirement accounts.

An inventory of IRA, employer- sponsored plans, and the details of each plan should be completed.

A summary of investment and bank accounts is helpful.

Again, the detail may save the heirs a lot of work. Account numbers, addresses and ownership arrangements should be listed.

A summary of your funeral wishes would be helpful. Some folks have this all arranged, but most do not. List all the details regarding the type of service — burial or cremation.

Directions on issues like viewings, type of casket or urn, appearance, including jewelry, the location of the services, and who should preside.

Some even include a list the hymns they want and donations instead of flowers. The more details you provide, the more likely your wishes will be followed.

Planning for your demise takes effort. There is more to it than simply writing a will or a trust. The benefit is for the survivors like Carol.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, MillsWealth.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.

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