BOSTON (CBS) – No one goes into a marriage thinking about being widowed. But most of us said the traditional: “Till death do us part” in our marriage vows.

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Widowhood does occur and usually it is a woman who is the surviving spouse. The average age of widowhood for a woman is 55. And only 7 out of 100 of those widowed will remarry. By age 65, more than half of all married American women are widowed.

There are things you can do to prepare yourself for the possibility of going it alone, things that will make it easier if you do outlive your spouse. Certainly getting your estate planning done or updated is the first step. Any wills or documents that are more than five years old need a review.

Have there been any major changes in your life? Those major changes could be a new job or a move to another state. Could be the birth of a baby. Yours or a grandbaby. A marriage. A divorce. Your kids have gotten married or they have gotten divorced. A death that could affect your will or trust such as the executor or a trustee passing away or one of the heirs in your will.

Take the time to talk about those awkward topics like death and dying. The quality of life if you are terminally ill. Organ donation. Let your spouse know how you feel and then go one step further. Fill out a donor card and execute a Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy allows you to choose someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable.

Review life insurance policies to be sure you are both adequately insured. Does your spouse have a policy thru their employer? For how much?

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Review pension and retirement plans. Know what your spouse has and what they are eligible for? And what benefits are you entitled to if something should happen?

Check the beneficiary designations on your retirement plans and insurance policies. Those long ago forgotten IRAs or pension may still have your brother as your beneficiary. Update any document that needed you to designate a beneficiary.

Where are the important documents of your life stored? One place or are they scattered? Organize them so you both can easily locate them in an emergency or worse a death. These would be wills, trust documents, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxys, health and life insurance policies, Social Security cards, birth certificates, marriage license, military discharge papers, pension documents.

After organizing them make a list of what you found and where they are now stored. Put the list in a place that is easily accessible. Or head to my website and click on Worksheets and then the Document Locator. You’ll find a list you can copy easily.


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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