Special Guidelines for Loss of a Spouse

Losing your spouse can be particularly devastating. On top of the emotional loss, there are added practical concerns and actions that you need to take to ensure your own present and future financial well-being. Here again, a family member or close friend may help you take these important steps in this difficult time.

File for benefits.

A surviving spouse may be entitled to a number of benefits. Contact agencies by phone to find out what documents are required to file. Keep records of all correspondence. Agencies to contact include:

  • Social Security–You'll need a death certificate, Social Security numbers for yourself, the deceased and dependent children, birth and marriage certificates, divorce papers if you're a surviving divorced spouse, and self-employment tax returns for the most recent year if applicable. Note that Social Security benefits may also be available for unmarried children up to age 18 (19 if in high school; 22 if disabled). For more information on survivors benefits, go to SSA.gov.
  • Insurance companies–Contact the insurance company's local office and obtain a death claim form. Complete the form and return it along with a certified copy of the death certificate and a copy of the policy.
  • Employer group insurance–The employee benefits department of your spouse's employer can provide a list of the benefits you may be eligible for and how they're paid. You'll need to provide a number of certified death certificates and other documentation.
  • Veterans benefits–To apply for veterans benefits, you may be required to appear in person at a local Veterans Benefits Administration office. Visit iris.va.gov for more information.
Review and update information on personal accounts and property.

Contact banks and credit card issuers to request the proper forms for changing joint loans, accounts and credit cards to your name only. An attorney or CPA should be able to provide additional guidance in the following matters:

  • Reviewing beneficiary designations
  • Updating health and life insurance records as needed
  • Updating titles on all property owned by the deceased
How to move forward with your own financial life.

As you move on with your own life, be sure to discuss your new financial reality with your family. Talk about how your lifestyle may change. Go over your saving and spending needs. And together, assess your current situation and your goals as you look ahead.

Here are more important things you can do to move forward with your financial life:

Our Two Cents
If you've inherited a large sum of money, this unexpected gain can involve some additional stress. Be cautious and careful about how you invest it. Keep the following points in mind:
  • Pay your taxes first.
  • Look at this new money in light of your overall financial picture.
  • Don't rush to pay off a mortgage or pay cash for a new home.
  • Take your time in making financial decisions.
  • Get professional advice from a trusted advisor.
  • Be on your guard against people who might want to take advantage of you.

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