face few events in life as emotionally draining as
losing your spouse. You are swept up in the whirlwind as
you prepare the funeral and make final arrangements to
say good-bye. Once you emerge, often overwhelmed and
lost, what do you do next to put your financial life in
try to not make any major decisions during this
emotional time. Start with only what needs to be done;
let the rest wait. Long-term judgment calls need
thoughtful consideration and a clear head.
level of organization helps you begin recovering. Get a
large file holder with individual slots for each
category mentioned below to start sorting any and all
paperwork relevant to your spouse.
will need a certified copy of the death certificate, a
copy of his or her birth certificate and your marriage
certificate and access to any safe deposit box you or
your spouse used.
maintain a list with contact information of the
professionals your spouse used; attorneys, accountants,
financial advisors, insurance agents and the like. Keep
written records of any discussions with these people
from now on. In an emotional time, you can easily forget
your other considerations:
insurance. You may want a folder for this paperwork and
with luck you’ll have a copy of the actual policy. You
must make a claim on any policy to collect; contact the
insurance agent for help if necessary.
out what type of life policy your spouse had — term,
whole or variable life, for instance — and if the
policies were still in force at the time of death. Also
determine the beneficiaries and whether the policy
carried additional benefits that you may not spot at
may receive proceeds from a life policy fairly quickly,
often in just a few days. Don’t forget that if your
spouse was employed, group life or survivor benefits may
be available to you from the employer.
Security. You or your children may qualify for survivor
benefits based on your late spouse’s work record.
Contact your local Social Security office to see what
you can expect; have on hand your family’s Social
Security numbers and any benefits statements.
Collect statements of all of your late spouse’s
financial investments, including bank and brokerage
accounts, retirement accounts and any partnership
investment information. Keep titles and ownership
documentation of all assets.
You will need a copy of the will and last testament. An
attorney can help you through the process of settling
In your grief you might overlook this contemporary loose
end. If your spouse had an online presence on social
media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter,
Instagram and the like, you may want to close those
Collect all credit card statements and bills. Just as
before your life’s upheaval, it remains important to
pay these on time. Check to see if your spouse carried
credit insurance, a type of life policy to pay off some
debts after death.
address your own financial affairs such as retitling
assets, changing account beneficiaries and updating
bad time will pass and you will come back. When you do,
best to emerge with what are now all your affairs in