How to Secure Finances After a Spouse’s Death

Figuring out what to do when a spouse dies is difficult but knowing how to handle the financial aspects can help alleviate some of the stress.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for securing your finances after your spouse’s death.

Step 1:  Get Copies of His or Her Death Certificate

Ask either the funeral director or your spouse’s health provider for copies of the death certificate. Request 10-20 copies just to play it safe.

Step 2: Contact All Sources of Income

Whatever money your spouse had coming in every month needs to be addressed as soon as possible. This means you should contact his or her:

  • Employer
  • Pension fund
  • Insurance company
  • Life Insurance
  • Bank
  • Broker
  • IRA and 401(k) manager

Step 3: Contact Social Security

The earliest you can receive Social Security survivor benefits is 60 years old; however, the Social Security Administration needs to be notified shortly after your spouse’s death so they can link your entitled benefits to your account.

One exception, if you had children with your spouse and they are under the age of 16, you may be able to collect survivor benefits now.

Step 4: Change all Passwords and PINs

 Identity theft is an unfortunate reality, and it can even impact the deceased. To combat this crime, change all PINs and passwords related to:

  • Banks
  • Credit cards
  • ATM and debit cards
  • Mutual funds
  • Anything else financially related

Step 5: Contact Credit Card Companies

If you shared a joint credit card, contact the credit card company to notify them of your spouse’s death and discuss options. To preserve your total available credit and your credit history, ask about removing your spouse from the joint cardholder account instead of having to open a new single cardholder account in your name. If your spouse had credit card accounts you were not on, contact the credit card companies to cancel those cards.

Step 6: Switch IRA Account to a Spousal IRA

As your spouse’s beneficiary, you can switch his or her IRA to a spousal IRA. This means you can either continue receiving payouts, delay payouts, or even create a stretch IRA, which would allow the money to continue growing.

Step 7: Contact the Credit Bureaus

Send a letter with a copy of the death notice to all three credit bureaus notifying them of your spouse’s death. By doing this, you will become aware of remaining debts in his or her name.

Step 8: Hire an Attorney

An attorney helps you review the will. If there was not a will, an attorney can also help you with the probate process, including handling your spouse’s estate and figuring out whether or not you’re financially responsible for anything.

Step 9: Put All Bills in Your Name

If your spouse was the one who took care of certain bills, have the provider put them in your name so that you do not lose service or incur late fees.

Step 10: Contact a Tax Professional

You’ll need to file taxes for your spouse the year he or she passed away. Because taxes for the deceased can get complicated, it is highly recommended you hire a tax professional.

Step 11: Speak with a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can help you formulate a spending and savings plan for your new income. If you received a large amount of money, consider investing it for retirement so the funds can work for you.

A spouse’s death is emotionally and pragmatically difficult. With a step-by-step plan, you can secure your finances with confidence. 

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