I was widowed in 1998, and a friend told me she heard there are some tax breaks for widows. Can you help?
Yes. As a widow, you may file a joint return for 1998. In addition, if you still have a dependent child at home, you may use the joint return rates for 1999 and 2000 as well. And if you and your husband owned rental property, don’t forget that it qualifies for a step-up in tax basis to its value at the date of his death. That means more depreciation currently, and less taxable gain when you sell it. This also applies to other appreciated assets, such as stock and mutual funds.
When my husband died, I collected some life insurance. Should I pay off the car, house and credit cards, or should I invest it?
First, set aside an emergency fund (generally three to six months’ expenses). Then pay off your non-deductible car loan and credit card debt. If the interest rate on your home mortgage is less than you can earn on investments (about 8-10%), keep the loan and invest your money for income or long-term growth, depending on your needs.
I am a 62-year-old widow and I am collecting social security benefits
based on my deceased husband’s earnings. I’d like to remarry, but I don’t want to lose those benefits. A friend told me that happened to her mother. Is that true?
Fortunately, your benefits will continue even after you remarry. In the bad old days, widows did lose their benefits upon remarriage, so a lot of seniors began living together instead. Congress mended that rip in our nation’s moral fabric in 1984.
My husband died recently. He never discussed his financial affairs with me, but he always told me I’d be taken care of. I think he meant there was life insurance, but I don’t know what life insurance policies he owned. How can I make sure I’ve collected all the insurance benefits due me?
Write to the American Council of Life Insurance, Policy Search Dept., 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20004. Request a missing policy search form and enclose a legal-size self-addressed, stamped envelope. When you return the complete form, they will send it to the life underwriters who are members of the Council. Those companies will search their files to see if your husband was covered by a life insurance policy issued by them. This search will take about three months.