Spouse's death left wife with difficult decisions

Suddenly hit with questions about life insurance and wills; tough choices under the best of circumstances

Mar 17, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Dan Jamieson

Terri Kennedy had to find a financial adviser when her husband, Jack, died after a long illness in 2005.

Ms. Kennedy, who lives in Dallas, was co-founder with her late husband of Sports Coverage Inc., which makes bed and bath merchandise emblazoned with sports team logos.

“We owned the company, and all the investments were tied up in life insurance and company stock,” Ms. Kennedy said.

Since her husband's death was not unexpected, the ownership transition of the company to outside partners was prearranged, and trusts had been established for Ms. Kennedy, then 49, and her two daughters.

BENEFICIARY STRESS

Nevertheless, “I was beneficiary of all this life insurance money, and I had to determine what to do about it,” Ms. Kennedy said.

She also wanted to redo the family's will and change the executor, who was having some personal difficulties.

“And I had a daughter with some issues, and I didn't want everything going to her,” Ms. Kennedy said.

“All this [financial] stuff is hard to deal with anytime,” she added, but especially when overcoming grief.

She was referred to her adviser, Joy Kirsch, by several people, but before signing on, she interviewed two other advisers.

“I liked Joy because she asked the most questions about how I wanted my future to be, about my short-term and long-term expenses, and about my dreams,” Ms. Kennedy recalled.

Two other male advisers “were nice, but they didn't ask enough questions, like what I would be facing with the girls, and their [college] tuition. [Would] I have weddings to pay for? And if I retired, could I do what I wanted to do, like travel and have the different hobbies that I wanted?”

Worst of all, their insurance agent wanted to put all the money in annuities.

“Even I knew that wasn't right,” Ms. Kennedy said.

Asking hard questions about money is especially important for widowed women, she said.

MONEY TO LAST

“Their earning power may not be so great,” she observed, and some women might not even be employed. “They might get a lump sum that they have to live on, but the money might not last, especially with children and college expenses.”

Ms. Kirsch helped her plan for those eventualities, said Ms. Kennedy, who still works at Sports Coverage as an employee.

“And although this is not what you're supposed to be looking for in an adviser, being from Texas, I liked Joy's East Texas accent,” Ms. Kennedy added.

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