Finances and the Death of Your Spouse: 14 Things to Do Now

An older woman and a younger woman sitting on a couch looking at a booklet together.

Losing a spouse is a traumatic and emotionally difficult experience. Whether the death was sudden or expected, the loss can easily overwhelm the surviving partner with grief and worry about finances.

While it isn’t always possible, one of the best ways to minimize the stress of gathering the paperwork after the loss of a spouse is to organize documentation and relevant information prior to the loss.

If that’s not something you were able to do ahead of time, below are some tips if you’ve got a lot of paperwork to deal with and maybe don’t know what to do financially after the death of your spouse:

  1. If your spouse did not prepay funeral and burial expenses, you may need to make a claim against their life insurance policy to get a payout to cover final expenses and other obligations.
  2. If you haven’t already, collect all your spouse’s financial documents including wills, recent tax returns, bank or investment statements, deeds and titles, credit cards and loans. Have account numbers, passwords, and balances readily available for when you need them.
  3. Try to limit personal information placed in obituaries to avoid potential fraudsters from accessing your deceased spouse’s accounts.
  4. Forward death certificates to financial and government institutions as soon as possible so that they can change accounts to the new owners and distribute any death benefits.
  5. Don’t make financial decisions quickly and be wary of helpful friends and relatives whose well-intentioned advice may not be in your best interest.
  6. Speak to an attorney to determine whether you will have to probate the estate which means visiting a courthouse to officially transfer paperwork and assets of your spouse.
  7. Be prepared for the reality that pensions and retirement funds may dry up quickly. You can contact the funds directly or the human resource department of the company where your spouse previously worked for assistance.
  8. Contact your Social Security office for assistance. Social security benefits vary greatly and depend on many factors like your or your spouse’s age and earnings.
  9. Don’t assume you must pay your spouse’s debt, although in certain circumstances you may be responsible for payment. For instance, payment of medical and nursing home bills vary from state to state.
  10. If you are approached by bill collectors, know your rights so that they will not take advantage of you while you are vulnerable.
  11. Review your own life and health insurance plans. Do you have enough coverage in place to cover your needs or those of surviving children or loved ones?
  12. Evaluate your tax status. Now that you will be required to file single, you may find that you owe more in taxes, especially if your income hasn’t decreased substantially.
  13. Check your credit card, mortgage and loan statuses. If all of your accounts were joint with your spouse, you may have difficulty opening an account in your name. Many financial institutions may allow you to open an account as a courtesy if you previously held joint accounts with them.
  14. Create a budget to determine how much you will need to live on. Explore ways that you could earn income or reduce expenses. Don’t be afraid to ask for support and consider applying for public benefits if you need them.

Seek grief counseling and support if you feel it would be helpful. Self-care is an important part of the grieving process, especially when navigating the stress of finances. You don’t have to go it alone. Friends, family and trusted professionals can help you navigate the paperwork and decisions that need to be made so that you will be able to grieve without added worry and stress.

Colonial Penn is here for you!

Colonial Penn has specialized in making life insurance simple and accessible by offering it directly to consumers since 1957. Click here to learn more.

Related Articles

Get a quick insurance quote now!

Pressed for time? We get it! Select your State to see which of our plans fit your needs and are available to you.