How to Organize Your Personal Finances After a Spouse’s Death

personal finances spouses deathThe death of a spouse is a highly traumatic event that can leave you emotionally shaken to the core. But despite all the shock and grief you feel, you must summon up enough inner strength and determination to handle the multitude of administrative duties that naturally fall on your shoulders after such an occurrence, including breaking the bad news to family and friends and making funeral arrangements.

While those notification and funeral-related tasks can’t wait, others can and should be addressed only after careful deliberation. We’re talking specifically about major financial decisions such as selling a house, liquidating investments and other assets, or making new investments requiring significant cash outlays. In other words, don’t do anything in the immediate aftermath of your spouse’s death that would substantially alter your current financial circumstances.

That being said, you can’t altogether avoid dealing with money matters, so here are some tips on how to organize your personal finances after a spouse’s death:

  • Obtain 10-15 copies of the death certificate to submit to various government and financial institutions
  • Locate important identifying documents and legal paperwork, including the decedent’s social security card, birth certificate, life insurance policies, bank account numbers, safety deposit box keys, pension information, business contracts, and investment holdings
  • Review your spouse’s debts, including car loans or leases, credit card balances, mortgages, and other outstanding obligations so you can continue to make payments where necessary
  • Cancel all recurring monthly payments that affected only your spouse, including subscriptions, health or life insurance premiums, club memberships, and alumni organizations or professional associations
  • Close any credit card accounts that were solely in your spouse’s name and notify the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) of the death
  • Submit the paperwork and supporting documents necessary to begin receiving death benefits for which you are eligible
  • For more complicated matters, obtain legal counsel or professional financial advice from a tax planner, CPA, or other qualified individual before making an important decision

While this list is by no means comprehensive, it does cover the basic financial quandaries that most people would have to face after a spouse’s death and should thus be able to serve as a good starting point for getting or staying organized.

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