The death of your 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 Spouse 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.
Request certified copies of the death certificate. You will need certified copies of your spouse's death certificate to prove the passing of your spouse 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 spouse was working at the time of his or her 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 spouse's job, make sure you know how long the coverage will last to give yourself time to make other arrangements.
Call your spouse's insurance company and file a claim. Make sure you have all the documentation in order before contacting the insurance company to avoid wasting time.
Probate your spouse's estate. If your spouse had a will, have the executor carry out the final wishes of your spouse. In the event that your spouse 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 spouse 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 passing before being able to gain access into all of the accounts.
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.
Contact government offices. Have your spouse's social security number handy and call the Social Security Administration office to find out what you need to do to receive survivor benefits. 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.
Switch emergency contact information. Change any your or your family members' emergency contact information which had your spouse's name or number listed to someone else's.
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