The death of a spouse is life’s most stressful event. Even when the death wasn’t sudden but was expected due to a terminal illness, the loss of a spouse creates a level of stress for the surviving partner that is unmatched by any other major life event.
Frequently the death of a spouse also may coincide with other stressors, too, like the loss of income, change in employment, dealing with significant debts or bills, or maybe moving to a new residence. With all of these stressors, the widow or widower must figure out what a new and different life looks like going forward.
This can be a scary time – especially if your spouse was the one who managed your finances. You might be looking for advice on what you should do or where you should turn for help. Here’s a place to start:
- Take time to organize your thoughts. Make a list of things that need to be done and group them into three categories based on when a decision must be made. Items that need to be dealt with immediately go in one pile, items that can wait a few weeks should go in another, and everything else goes into the third pile for future consideration.
- After a spouse has died, gather all the important documents and information that you can find. This may include bank accounts, investments, social security numbers, marriage licenses, birth certificates, and a last will and testament. This list is not exhaustive, so any document that looks to be important should be saved.
- Seek out professional financial and legal help. Your financial advisor, attorney, insurance agent, and accountant can help you obtain any documents that you will need. If you only have one or two of those professionals, they should be able to recommend additional professionals you can trust.
- Your immediate financial needs will include funeral/burial expenses but may also include access to funds for living expenses for approximately six weeks. This will ensure that while you are dealing with the immediate impact of your spouse’s death, you will not need to worry about paying for groceries, utilities, or other monthly expenses.
Of course, everyone’s financial situation is different in regard to the death of a spouse. For example, if your spouse was self-employed as opposed to working for an employer, there will be different considerations. A certified financial planner can help you sort out the best course of action for you and your family.