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Moving Forward After the Death of a Spouse

A Financial To-Do List for the Surviving Spouse

Losing a spouse can be devastating. While coping with the emotional impact of his or her loss, a surviving spouse must somehow find the strength to move forward. Unfortunately, the grieving process can be disrupted by the financial demands placed on a surviving spouse. This is particularly true for those individuals who were not actively involved in managing the couple’s financial affairs.

If you ever face these challenges, know that you are not alone. Your Stifel Financial Advisor can help you plan for your financial demands in an efficient manner so that you can focus more energy on your emotional well-being. To get you started, we have compiled a list of obligations commonly faced by a surviving spouse.

Tie Up Loose Ends

  • Write down all of your current bills and have a plan in place to ensure they are paid on time. Consider which bills can be canceled, such as your spouse’s cell phone, gym membership, or health coverage.

  • Contact your spouse’s employer or previous employers to determine if there are any benefits to which you are entitled. These benefits may include life insurance policies and pensions.

  • Cancel your deceased spouse’s credit cards. Contact any creditors and close accounts that were owned solely by your spouse.

  • Stop your deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits and apply for widow(er) benefits, if applicable.

  • Contact any financial institutions with whom your spouse did business to notify them that he or she has passed away.

  • Review the titling on all assets, including your home and automobiles, to determine whether any changes are necessary.

Gather Important Documents

Gather all essential records and documentation, including Social Security numbers, birth/marriage/death certificates, estate planning documents, insurance policies, and statements for any financial and investment accounts. Be aware that most financial institutions will require you to provide a death certificate in order to make any necessary changes to an account. Upon gathering all essential records, store them in a secure location so that they remain safe but easy to access.

Consult With An Attorney and Tax Professional

Meet with a trusted attorney to review your spouse’s estate planning documents. An attorney will be able to help you efficiently administer your spouse’s estate. You should also review your own personal estate plan with your attorney to remove your deceased spouse from all estate planning documents. In addition, you should meet with a trusted tax professional. Income tax returns will still need to be filed for the year of death, and estate tax returns may be required.

Consult With Your Stifel Financial Advisor

Your Stifel Financial Advisor can help you create a new plan based on your current situation. This will help you determine a new budget while considering any spending goals you have moving forward. While creating this plan, your Stifel Financial Advisor can help you determine the most effective strategy for receiving benefits from your spouse’s qualified plans. Your Stifel Financial Advisor can also help you review all beneficiary designations on your own qualified plans, life insurance policies, and annuities.

Take Your Time With Big Financial Decisions

Take some time before making any major financial decisions, such as selling your home or investing lump-sum payouts from pensions or life insurance. Some experts recommend a widow or widower wait at least 6 to12 months before making any major life decisions. As you navigate the grieving process, you do not need to put any more stress on yourself. Take things one day at a time and rely on your Stifel Financial Advisor if you have any questions or concerns.