Leaving the responsibility to one can ultimately hurt the other

Though spouses typically divide and conquer household responsibilities, retirement planning is best shared. Putting all the planning of retirement on one spouse can burden the other at an inevitable but stressful time, particularly if the planner predeceases their spouse. Both spouses’ participation can keep the process in check and protect surviving dependents.

A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that deaths in the United States exceeded 2.6 million in 2014, with 70% age 65 or older. And for all the talk these days about “being present,” it’s a good bet that many surviving spouses were absent during any retirement planning process, thereby complicating the eventual resolution of the deceased’s estate.

This can be alleviated or even avoided when both spouses participate in proper retirement and estate planning. Too often the task is left to one spouse – usually the husband – leaving both spouses vulnerable to the eventualities of life and death.

When both spouses are actively engaged in the process with a qualified retirement professional, there’s greater familiarity with the details to be managed during an inevitably emotional and stressful time. Scenarios that benefit from dual planning and participation include:

Social Security: So often this is taken for granted, like the clockwork of an automated monthly deposit. Many recipients are unaware of survivor’s benefits, and to miss it for an extended period could mean no recourse for the years that precede the filing of a recovery claim. Benefits can even apply to divorcees who’ve not remarried.

Proper Documentation: People instinctively think that a will is sufficient, but revocable trusts are comprehensive and completely avoid the delays and potential publicity of probate. Experts endorse this investment and warn against the convenience of inexpensive and insufficient options found online and offline.

Trust: By collaborating with a skilled retirement planner along the way, the surviving spouse can have comfort and confidence when it’s needed most. They’ll also know the differences between fee-based and commissioned advisors, and their respective fiduciary duties.

All things considered, it pays to be present, informed and knowledgeable about a process that could be decades in the making.

Syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews retirement specialist Brad Tunnell. Right on the Money Show is an hour long financial talk distributed to 280 media outlets, social media networks and financial industry portals.