Make no major financial transactions within one year of death of spouse

I signed an agreement to purchase my first house in December, 1975. The owners of the house had it built as a second home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Their primary residence was in Ohio. Earlier in 1975, the wife died unexpectedly. The grieving widower put the Florida house up for sale almost immediately after the death of his wife. He sold me the house for $79,500, 62% of his asking price of $129,000. We closed on the sale in the first week of January, 1976. Two years later, he knocked on our front door. I was at work and my wife opened the door. He introduced himself as the former owner of the house. He said selling the house was the biggest mistake he had ever made as he had the house built to his specification. He would pay us anything within reason if we would sell the house back to him. My wife thanked him for stopping by but said we had no interest in selling the house.

Over my 40 years in the investment industry I have had numerous clients that had a spouse pass away. Some were after long illnesses and were expected. Some were sudden and unexpected. Often times the surviving spouse would make the same decision that the seller of my first house did. They would sell their residence and move to a different city to be close to a sister, brother, children or grandchildren. More times than not, they regretted the move and wished they could have the house they sold back.

If your spouse passes away, whether expected or sudden, don't make any major financial transactions for a minimum of one year. If you want to be close to a relative, rent an apartment for a year near the relative. But don't sell your home for at least one year. Don't make any large financial purchases or sales. After one year has passed and the emotions have become more rational, discuss your options with your financial advisors.