Being prepared for whatever life throws at you is so important. This became glaringly so to me recently as a client of mine suddenly lost her husband. One of the first questions she had for me was what to do when a spouse dies. Isn’t there a checklist? As a result, I hope this will help any of you who may need this or at least prove to be a source of help to which to refer.
Veterans – Notify your local Veterans Administration to see if you quality for any assistance with the funeral, burial, or anything else. You will need a copy of the discharge papers.
Death Certificate – The funeral director will provide this to you. If you need additional copies, you can contact the city hall in the place where they died. Get at least 10 – 12 original copies so that you have them when you need them. Some companies just need a copy of the death certificate; others need an original.
Social Security – If your spouse received Social Security, you need to notify the office of the date of death, so all benefits stop and to inquire about any death benefit to which you are entitled. If you are the surviving spouse, you will need to also ask if you are eligible for an increase to your own benefit. If you have minor children, ask about their benefits as well.
Employer – Let your spouse’s employer know of the death. Ask is there are any benefits you are entitled to and if so, how to obtain them.
Health Insurance – Contact your health insurance provider to see how the death of your loved one will affect anyone else on the policy and how to keep coverage for the survivors.
Life Insurance – You will need to fill out a form the company provides along with a death certificate once you notify them of the death. Most important and often neglected is investigating whether your loved one is listed as a beneficiary on another policy. Change that immediately to avoid issues later on.
Credit Cards – Notify all credit card companies of your loved one’s passing. If you are a co-signer on the credit card or you are associated with that credit card, ask how you may continue to use that card or get one issued in your name.
Accountant, Financial Advisor, and Lawyer – Let your accountant, financial advisor, and lawyer know immediately so they can begin to advise you of what information you need to gather or forms to complete to help make it an easier time for all when the final tax and legal papers are filed.
Bank – If you have a joint account, change it to just your name. Investigate if there are any other accounts at the bank such as a trust account.
Car – Have the deceased name removed from the title of the car and transfer it to your name.
Bill Paying – If you do not get paper bills in the mail, you may need to contact the companies to have them change the email address and name associated with the bills. Put everything in your name. During this very stressful time, make sure that you are paying your bills. Make a list of all the bills you can remember that need to be paid such as mortgage, insurance (home, auto, umbrella, etc.), utilities (gas, electric, water, cable, phone, internet), mobile phone, condo fees, credit cards, and any other bills that you or your spouse paid.
I have mentioned a few documents that you need to gather but it is also helpful to have your hands on:
Social Security Card
Deed/Title to Property (home, car, etc.)
Tax Forms for Recent Year
My heart goes out to all of you who have lost loved ones. During such a painful time, it is regrettable that there still remains a lot to do, but it is manageable if you take a day at a time and ask for help as needed.