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7 Important Financial Actions for Widows and Widowers

The loss of a spouse is challenging emotionally and financially. Death is an uncomfortable subject and few of us have prepared sufficiently to deal with the aftermath. However, if you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you can take to minimize the negative financial aspects.

When a spouse passes away, women are often in a more challenging situation than men are. On the average, women earn less, save less, and start investing much later in life.

Consider these steps after the loss of a spouse:

1. Acquire multiple copies of the death certificate.

You’ll find that you can’t have too many copies. It’s necessary to send a copy to the Social Security Administration, credit card companies, insurance companies, and many other financial institutions. The death certificate is necessary to verify your spouse’s death.

A death certificate is also necessary to change or remove names from accounts. This can also include changing beneficiaries.

Fifteen copies should be sufficient.

2. Contact the necessary professionals first.

Ideally, you’ll speak with a tax accountant and an estate-planning attorney before taking any significant action. These experts are knowledgeable on the financial ramifications of your situation. Before receiving an insurance payout or taking any other major financial step, speak with an expert.

Avoid taking the advice of well-meaning friends and family. Unless you know someone that works in an applicable field, their advice isn’t likely to be your best course of action.

3. Update your will.

It’s likely that your spouse was the primary beneficiary of your will. Updating your will is necessary for other reasons. In most states, your will becomes invalid when your spouse dies. This means the state will determine how your assets are distributed until a new will is created.

4. Contact the social security administration.

You are probably eligible for a death benefit and a survivor’s benefit. This can be a huge help with funeral expenses.

5. Ensure that you’re paying your bills on time.

It’s common during times of grief and stress to ignore day-to-day activities. Remember to take care of yourself and pay your bills on time. The additional stress of late fees and phone calls from creditors is the last thing you want or need.

6. Collect all insurance policies and contact the companies.

This includes life insurance, automobile insurance, any insurance provided by your spouse’s employer, mortgage insurance, and any other insurance.

In some cases, you’ll receive a benefit. In others, you may receive a refund when you cancel a policy that has become unnecessary. There are instances where you may keep a policy, but wish to change the beneficiaries.

7. Contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs if your spouse was in the military.

There are funds available for funeral expenses. It’s also possible to receive monthly payments if your spouse was receiving disability benefits.


These are just a few of the necessary steps to secure your finances if your spouse passes away. It’s very important to work with the appropriate financial experts.

Most importantly, speak with your spouse before this circumstance occurs. Discuss how these financial issues will be handled and get your papers in order. Take the initiative to get organized beforehand.