What to Do When a Spouse Passes Away

No one likes to think about a spouse passing away. However, knowing what to expect during this extremely difficult period of transition will allow you to focus on your emotions.

Talk With Your Attorney

If your spouse has a will, locate the original copy and talk with your attorney about the probate of that will. Are you named as the executor? If not, who is? You will need to coordinate with the executor.

Obtain Multiple Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

Without a death certificate, you will be unable to complete many of the legal and financial requirements surrounding your spouse’s death or probate your spouse’s will. Government agencies, financial institutions, creditors, unions, and other individuals will not be responsive until you can provide a certified copy of the death certificate.

Certificates can be obtained at your city’s clerk office or local vital statistics office. At least ten certificates are recommended, though 20 is preferred, and the certificates will range from $5-20.

Inform the Necessary Institutions

You will need to inform a large number of organizations about the passing of your spouse for a myriad of reasons. These organizations include:

  • Insurance companies
  • Financial institutions
  • Credit bureaus
  • Credit card companies
  • Post office
  • Utility companies
  • Creditors
  • Social Security Administration

Pay Final Bills and Close Accounts

To avoid accruing additional payments on any of your spouse’s accounts, cancel any subscriptions, memberships, services, or credit cards that are no longer needed. Transfer utilities if necessary. Check to see if the state you live in requires homeownership to be transferred in order for insurance to remain in place. In addition to canceling these accounts, be sure to pay any outstanding bills and file for income taxes come tax season, if necessary.

Compile Necessary Financial Documents

Preferably ahead of time, you should gather the documents, or at least be aware of their location, that you will need to tend to your spouse’s financial and legal affairs should he or she pass. These documents are necessary to prove assets, benefits, and any outstanding debts.

Documents should include any will or trust, all insurance policies; the most recent credit card statements, mortgage statements and tax returns; investment accounts; retirement accounts; marriage and birth certificates, and an up-to-date credit report.

If You Are The Executor

During this emotional time, a lawyer can provide clarity in complex matters to save you thousands of dollars and many headaches. Locate someone who regularly practices in the probate court and handles estate administration. That lawyer can assist you with your executor responsibilities and ensure you comply with your fiduciary responsibilities. An attorney can easily save the estate thousands of dollars while making sure all parties are acting within the legal framework.

Headache and heartbreak can be eased slightly by preparing for a spouse’s passing. Don’t be afraid to speak with your lawyer, or your spouse, before tragedy strikes and you’re left uncertain as to what you should do.