Dealing with the death of a spouse or loved one is never easy, and grief can bring on a variety of emotions that you might not be prepared for. In addition to dealing with your grief, you may be facing a long list of financial decisions that require clear thinking during a stress-filled time, and that’s never an easy task. Some decisions can wait until you’ve had time to process your loss, but others are time sensitive. Organizing your financial documents and knowing what to expect can help make this process a bit easier on you. We’ll walk you through some of the most important steps you can take to get your finances in order after the loss of a spouse.
Find Important Documents
You’ll need to locate some essential documents and have them on hand as you sort out your finances. If you haven’t been in the habit of storing your important documents in a safe and accessible location, start now. Gather all important documents in a central place and organize them in folders to keep them handy as you move through the next few months. You’ll want to pull together the following documents:
- Will and/or trust
- Life insurance policies
- Marriage certificate and birth certificate of your spouse
- Death certificate (Make 10-20 copies, depending on the number of assets or accounts you have)
- Tax returns for the last two years
- Car insurance and car loan information for your deceased spouse if you were on the loan
- Health insurance if you were on your deceased spouse’s plan
- Current bills (You’ll want to know how to access online bill-pay tools and bank accounts)
- Investment account statements
- Bank statements
- Stock certificates
- Mortgage documents (At the minimum you’ll want your monthly statement)
- Loan statements/documents
- Retirement plan statements
- Pension plan statements
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Motor vehicle titles
- Funeral arrangements or instructions
- Social security cards for both of you
- Divorce agreements
- Safe deposit box information and key
- Storage locker contract
- Business ownership or interest documents
- Military service records
- Computer records related to assets
Organize Your Bills
Make sure you have a plan for all your bills. If you were not the one responsible for paying bills, research which ones were on automatic payment and which ones need to be paid manually. It can help to create a bills checklist or spreadsheet so that you can anticipate expenses and prevent bills from incurring late fees or penalties if they’re missed. If you are not able to pay all the bills immediately, contact your creditors about the possibility of delaying payments due to the circumstances. If your spouse had any credit cards, loans, or other bills solely in his or her name, provide those creditors with a death certificate. You may or may not be responsible for paying these debts, depending on the type of each debt and where you live. If the bills aren’t already in your name, contact the sender to update the account with your name and contact information to enable continuation of services. Some vendors require closing the old account and creating a new account, but some may simply update the account with your name.
Additional Financial Tasks
Once you’ve organized your financial documents and bills, you’ll be able to complete the following tasks more smoothly:
- While your spouse is ill, contact your current place of work so you can discuss time off, FMLA pay, and/or possible dismissal of work depending on the severity of the illness.
- At the same time, contact all of your health and life insurance companies, including Medicare, and make sure all of your payments are up to date.
- Right after your spouse passes, contact your health and life insurance companies again so that you can quickly get help and advice about the next steps you’ll need to take.
- Notify all billing companies such as credit card companies, loan companies, and banks to make sure your money and your spouse’s money is kept safe.
- Send a copy of your spouse’s death certificate to any credit cards, household bills, and auto companies that still may be in your spouse’s name to let them know of your spouse’s passing. These companies may be able to give you a break in your billing cycles and/or refund paid money depending on your financial situation.
- Notify your financial advisor to get help with life insurance companies as needed. He or she can contact these companies if your policies are through that broker or agent.
Widow and Widower Resources
If you find yourself here because you’ve lost a loved one to glioblastoma multiforme and you’re searching for resources and support, know that we are here to help. Visit our resources and support pages for more end-of-life resources for widows and widowers. With the Glioblastoma Support Network, you are not alone.