Financial checklist: 13 things you need to do when your spouse dies

Image of a woman who is getting her finances in order after the death of her spouse.

A helpful planner for the months ahead

You can never truly be prepared for the death of a spouse or partner. Your many decisions can be overwhelming at a time when you’re dealing with a flood of emotions.

The funeral director will help you get certified copies of the death certificate, which you’ll need for many of the companies you’ll have to contact.

But what next? 

Often a financial advisor can help handle many tasks. If you don’t have one, the following financial checklist can help.

1. Call your attorney.

Find out what the process is regarding the estate and what you need to know going forward.

2. Contact the Social Security Administration.

Depending on circumstances, survivor benefits could be payable to you.

3. Notify your spouse’s employer.

Let them know about benefits due to beneficiaries. Check their retirement or pension plans. If you or your children were covered through your spouse’s medical insurance, ask about continuing coverage. Notify your employer, too, since death of a spouse may be a “life event” that may trigger benefit decisions.

4. Ask your spouse’s former employers.

Ask them about life insurance policies, a pension, an old 401(k), or other benefits.

5. Check with the Veteran’s Administration.

If your spouse served in the military to learn what benefits might be due to you.

6. Notify all insurance companies, including life and health.

So they can send claim forms and instructions. It can take weeks to receive funds, so try to get started as soon as possible.

7. Change all property titles.

Remove your spouse’s name and update insurance policies.

8. Change titles on all jointly-held bank, investment, and credit accounts.

Close accounts that were in your spouse’s name only.

9. Send a letter to all 3 major credit bureaus.

Get a copy of your spouse’s credit reports so you’re aware of all debts, the 3 major credit bureaus are EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion. Ask to have a notification in the credit report that says “Deceased - do not issue” so new credit is not taken out in his or her name.

10. Locate the will.

Generally, it’s filed with an attorney, or located in a lockbox or safe deposit box. Contact the attorney for a reading and to settle the estate.

11. Notify your accountant/tax preparer.

Taxes for your spouse should be filed for the year of death, and any taxes paid. Since there could be complicated issues to deal with, it may be best to have a tax professional help.

12. Call the financial aid office if you have a child in college.

You may qualify for more assistance.

13. Work with a financial advisor.

They can help you update your financial plan based on benefits you’ve received. Create a new budget for your new income and expenses. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help during this difficult time. Family and friends can be a great resource to help you stay organized, especially if they’ve been through a loss themselves.

Want to keep track of your progress offline? Download a printable version of this checklist (PDF).

Download a printable version of our loss of a spouse checklist (PDF) to track your progress.

What happens when you call about a life insurance claim:

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