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Home > Opinion > Dennis Hall

Widows and the need for trust

I am in the throes of writing a book, and it is a long and tortuous journey I can tell you.

By Dennis Hall | Published Jun 20, 2012 | comments

When you mention you are writing a book, you discover there are several others doing the same. Around the country there are dozens of advisers burning the candle at both ends putting thoughts down on paper. We have all got different approaches to writing yet, differences aside, I sense that we are each becoming more informed through the writing process. There is something about committing words to paper that demands facts are checked, and opinions are flagged as such.

My book is for widows, and I believe that I have something valuable to share because almost half the clients I advise have been widowed. Yet being a widow is something I will not ever experience in quite the same way, so I need first-hand knowledge from people who have experienced the issues covered by my book. I picked up the phone and asked some of my clients if they would meet me to answer some questions about their experiences through bereavement, particularly with relation to money.

Last week I met Helen (name changed). Helen was unlucky to have been widowed twice, once in her early 40s and again in her late 50s. Her first husband died through illness, but she said it gave her and her husband several months to prepare for his death. Her second husband died following a motoring accident which could not have been anticipated. Despite her experiences she admitted he did not leave a will. The conversation was revealing, not just because it confirmed many of the things I thought I knew, but also because it opened my eyes to things that had not even considered.

By coincidence I had read an article earlier in the week that suggested the average time before a widow changes her financial adviser is 18 months after her husband’s death. So I asked Helen whether it was something she could comment on. She said in her case she changed adviser within two years of her second husband’s death – she came to me. The reason seemed to be that she did not feel she belonged. The relationship had been established with her husband, and there had been no attempt to engage with her prior to his death. After his death it was assumed that things would continue as before.

When working with couples I notice there tends to be a dominant partner who makes the financial decisions and it tends to be the male partner. Nowadays I insist that if couples want to work with me, I need to meet them both. There is often reluctance to engage, but it disappears when I give stories about the widows who did not have trusted relationships with the family’s advisers.

One of my clients recently told me of the tremendous peace of mind she had knowing that if anything happened to her husband, we have already created the plan to deal with it. This was reinforced by Helen who said that the preparation done by her first husband made his death easier to deal with compared to the second.

Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning

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