A Checklist for Surviving Spouses

July 16, 2018, by John Norris

According to experts, the death of a spouse is the most stressful life event one can have. Whether it is unexpected or imminent, death is always a surprise. However, putting your financial house in order afterwards doesn’t have to be.

The following checklist highlights a few things will help ease a small part of the stress during the grieving process. While it is no means exhaustive, crossing off these items will help you feel like you are getting some control back over your life. What’s more, you could or should be doing a few of them as a couple right now!

Of course, feel free to contact your Oakworth client advisor to help you with your specific situation.

A Checklist for Surviving Spouses

The loss of a spouse can throw life into turmoil. Although taking stock of family finances may be the last thing a surviving spouse feels like doing, it can’t be put off for long. The following checklist of things that need to be done may help relieve you or a loved one of some of the stress of a very trying time.

  • Collect important documents. These include birth and marriage certificates; military discharge papers; bank, retirement plan, and investment account statements; real estate deeds; Social Security card; mortgage and other loan documents; credit card statements; insurance policies and multiple original copies of the death certificate.
  • Contact Social Security. Notify the Social Security Administration of the death, and check to see what benefits may be available to the surviving spouse and any minor children.
  • Itemize assets, income, and debts. Review liquid assets — cash on hand, money in the bank, life insurance death benefits — to determine the amount of money readily available to meet expenses. Review investments. List financial obligations and prioritize bills. If necessary, call creditors to work out payment schedules.
  • Update surviving spouse’s beneficiaries. Check life insurance policies and retirement accounts and change the beneficiary designations if necessary.
  • Retitle joint bank and investment accounts. Contact financial institutions to update their ownership records.
  • Contact spouse’s employer(s). Find out if any unpaid salary or commissions or employee benefits — life insurance proceeds, pension benefits, accrued vacation and/or sick pay, leftover funds in a medical flexible spending account, etc. — are payable. Ask whether existing health insurance coverage can be continued (if applicable) and for how long, and find out the cost.
  • Check insurance needs. Start researching health insurance options to find the most affordable option, especially if existing coverage won’t be available going forward. Consider buying additional life insurance, especially if there are children to support, and a disability policy as well.

Consider getting assistance from an experienced financial professional. Someone who will take the time to sit down and talk about these matters can be invaluable. Don’t try to go it alone.

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