Your life does not end with your spouse’s death. You have to keep in mind that you have responsibilities that you cannot leave hanging, especially the financial ones. It is okay to grieve – and you should – but after doing so, you have to pick yourself up, grab documents, and fix some important things. There is a post-death to-do list that you cannot ignore.
It is your duty to report the death of your spouse to concerned entities, like the local government or his employer, and settle contracts and agreements that will help you deal with his estate.
Inform everyone concerned of your spouse’s death
This is a must if the death of your spouse is abrupt. Let’s be real. You are not the only one who will be affected when your spouse passes away. It can be emotionally shattering, but you have to muster the strength to tell people who are concerned.
First, inform your closest family members and relatives. Then, contact his friends and if applicable, the people in the church you two are affiliated with. They are the ones who will unconditionally help you when you need them emotionally.
After this, get in touch with professionals and authorized entities who will help you arrange the paperwork necessary for the settling of your spouse’s estate and dealing with outstanding transactions if there are any. These people are his lawyer, his insurance advisor, financial consultant, accountant, and the funeral director.
Report his death to your employer and his, too. They’ll have to know what you’re going through so that adjustments can be made. Always keep their contact details and be reachable when they need to talk to you.
Get all the advice you’ll need from the professionals
You have to know who does what. Your lawyer will assist you with your spouse’s will and the process of settling his estate. He’s the only one permitted by the law to do it. The funeral director can help you with producing copies of his death certificate and his applications for government benefits. You can also ask your lawyer what the law states about your finances and your marriage.
If your spouse has insurance policies, contact his insurance advisor to help you finish the process of claiming the proceeds. If the insurance advisor is nowhere to be found, you can go directly to the company and make them help you with settling the claims. The financial advisor, accountant, and the tax advisor are the most reliable people who will help you with financial matters.
Compile all relevant documents and regularly update your finances
Ideally, these papers must easily be accessible all the time. Some papers can only be produced after your spouse’s death.
The first documents you must acquire are authorized copies of your spouse’s death certificate. Within 24 hours of your spouse’s death, you can get them from your family doctor or the medical professional who attended to him before he passed away. The funeral director will help complete the data needed in the certificate forms and file it with the state. You need some certified copies, not photocopies.
After your spouse’s death is made official in the state, compile all documents required for settling your estate. These include wills, trusts, titles, deeds, and other documents indicating his ownership of properties and assets.
Other personal documents like marriage certificates, your children’s birth and/or adoption certificates, a document of military discharge, and documents for claiming benefits must be gathered too. Your lawyer may have copies of these if you cannot locate them all. Your spouse might have hidden it in a safe or a secret compartment somewhere your house.
Keep each document type in one folder and label it so that it can easily be seen and read. Check them regularly if you’re missing something or if there are any follow-ups needed for a document.
Gathering documents is a very tedious procedure, and it may weigh in on your emotions, but once all of these are settled, a big chunk of problems will be over. While you’re accomplishing this step, you have to make sure your bills are all paid and all financial records are updated to the most recent period. Mortgages and insurance premiums must be settled with because they can cause financial pain when left unattended.
Settle the estate of your spouse
The executor, who is stated in the will, is responsible for settling the estate. Normally, you’ll be the executor of your spouse’s estate. If this requirement is fulfilled, the lawyer will help you with the settling your spouse’s finances. If not, you must contact the executor quickly to settle the estate fast.
Every state has their rules regarding settling the estate. Contact your lawyer regarding the specific procedures.
Remember, you can always choose the efficient way of doing things. The death of your spouse is already devastating. Don’t make life harder for yourself when it shouldn’t be. As the surviving spouse, you can choose to do these standard procedures in organizing money matters after being widowed.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
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