Your Spouse Has Passed Away, Now What?

Karen Roberts |

The Swiss Author Louise Germaine de Stael once wrote, “We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.”

First, you mourn.  Everything else can wait while you mourn the death of your spouse.  When you feel ready, below is a checklist to help you take control of your financial future. 


Month One:

  • While at the funeral home, make sure to order at least 5 original death certificates. Get a mix of long and short versions. You will need them in the near future. 
  • Contact your financial professional to let them know your spouse has passed away
  • Submit claims on your spouse's life insurance policies and annuities. These may include: Individual coverage, group coverage through an employer, VA coverage, and Accidental Death Benefits.
  • Contact Social Security to stop your spouse's benefits, if appropriate adjust your benefits to be that of a widower. 
  • Apply for your spouse's Social Security benefit. 
  • Contact your long-term care provider if you were were receiving benefits. If not,this can wait. 
  • Review all email and social media accounts that belonged to your spouse, and deactivate them. 
  • Do NOT make any major changes or decisions this month. You still need time to mourn and process your next steps. 


Month two:

  • If you haven’t already done so, contact your financial professional.  You will need to review your accounts and make changes to titling as necessary. 
  • You will need to go to the bank and update your checking and savings accounts to make sure the titling is correct.  You will also need to update your safety deposit box information.
  • If you must go through probate, contact a probate attorney.
  • If your spouse died owing money, now is the time to determine if you need to pay this debt.  A financial advisor or attorney can help you make this determination.
  • You will need to update your beneficiaries as appropriate.
  • If your spouse still has a retirement account at an employer, you will need to contact them to determine how you will receive the benefits.
  • If your spouse has a pension, you will need to notify the pension of the death and find out if you are entitled to any benefits going forward.


month six and beyond:

Now that you have had a chance to adjust to your new life, it is time to re-evaluate your future.

  • Do you still want to live in your home?
  • Do you want to move to a different city or state?
  • Review your investments to make sure they meet with your needs.
  • Create a new will/trust and any ancillary documents that may need to be updated.
  • Make sure all beneficiaries are up to date and correct.
  • Review your own life insurance and long-term care insurance to make sure they are still meeting your needs.
  • Review your investments accounts to make sure you will still have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.
  • Meet with your tax professional.


As you go through this period of mourning, you should rely on your financial professional for help and guidance.  They should be looking out for your best interest.  Do not feel like you must do something, even if the kids are pushing for it.  Move forward at your own pace and comfort.  You still have a long life to live and you should live it on your own terms.


“We never truly get over a loss, but we move forward and eventually evolve towards our future.”

Karen Roberts, financial professional