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Financial Checklist for Widows Thumbnail

Financial Checklist for Widows


The death of a spouse is a period of unimaginable grief, but unfortunately, there are many legal and financial obligations which won't wait. Tackling a to-do list at this time is probably the last thing you want to do, so it is a good idea if you can seek out the help and advice of a trusted family member, friend, or advisor to sort things out and provide you with emotional guidance. Use the following checklist as a guide for the most important tasks you need to complete.

Steps to Take After Your Husband or Wife Dies

Don't make any life-changing decisions. Now is not the time to make any significant, financial decisions. While it is entirely reasonable to want to sell a home or other property which reminds you of your spouse, wait. Also, avoid making any additional investments or large purchases, especially if you were not actively involved in your family's financial before the death. Give yourself all the time you need to mourn first. 

Call your attorney. There are many legal matters to consider when a spouse has died. The attorney who helped prepare your will or trust can help give you a better understanding of the estate administration process and the laws that govern your state.

Request certified copies of the death certificate. You will need certified copies of your spouse's death certificate to prove the passing of your husband or wife and to claim benefits or to switch over accounts into your name. Ask the funeral home for at least a dozen or more copies. You may also need certified marriage certificates to prove you were married to the deceased.

Speak with your spouse's employer. If your husband or wife was working at the time of their death, make a point to contact the employer to see if there are any benefits which you are entitled to have including a 401(k) or employer-based insurance policy. If you and your dependents' medical insurance was covered by your husband's job, make sure you know how long the coverage will last to give yourself time to make other arrangements. Also, contact your spouse's former employers. Ask if there are any benefits such as life insurance policies, pensions, old 401(k)s that are held in your spouses name.

Call your spouse's life insurance company and file a claim. Make sure you have all the documentation in order, such as death certificates, before contacting the insurance company to avoid wasting time. 

Probate your spouse's estate. Locate your spouse's will. Generally, it is filed with an attorney, a safe deposit box or at home. Contact the attorney who prepared it and schedule a reading to settle the estate.  In the event that your loved one died without a will, things can get even more complicated. Most people can benefit from asking for professional legal and financial advice in this situation. 

Gather the financial records. Start collecting all of the financial records, including banking records, bills, credit card statements, tax returns, insurance policies, any outstanding mortgages or loans, and retirement accounts. If your husband or wife did not have an organized bookkeeping system, this might take a long time. You may need to call companies directly and provide proof of your spouse's passing before being able to gain access into all of the accounts. Generally, a CPA, estate attorney or financial planner are a good place to start as they may have an inventory of all your spouse's assets and liabilities.

Switch over accounts and cancel credit cards. If your spouse was the sole name on an account such as a utility, subscription service, such as a mobile phone, make sure to change the name if you want to keep the service or terminate it. Call your spouse's credit card company and get a final bill before canceling the cards. 

Send a letter to all three major credit bureaus. Obtain a copy of your spouse's credit report so that you can be made aware of all outstanding debts. (The three major credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Ask to have a notification in the credit report that says, "Deceased - do not issue credit," so no new debts can be taken out in their name.

Contact government offices. Have your wife's or husband's social security number handy and call the Social Security Administration office to find out what you need to do to receive survivor benefits. The number is 800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. Doing this as soon as possible can help prevent long delays before you get your next Social Security payment and you may even qualify for a one-time death benefit of $255. If your spouse served in the armed forces, you might be eligible for additional benefits from the Veterans' Administration, so contact your local branch office. 

If you have questions or need further help, don't hesitate to give us a call and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

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This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.