What to Do When a Spouse Dies

From Anonymous

After a partner’s death, the widowed spouse must attend to numerous financial details, including these principal ones.

In the first days after the death

  • Try to find directions for the funeral. They may be in a will or letter.
  • Order a dozen certified copies of the death certificate from the county clerk’s offices or the funeral director. Cost: about $5 each. You will need them to claim death benefits and Social Security, and to re-title joint assets.
  • Have someone stay at home during the funeral. Burglars read obituaries to learn when a house will be unoccupied.

Within the first two weeks

  • Have your attorney review the will and file in probate court.
  • Collect the documents needed to claim death benefits and to value the estate. These include bank, employee-benefits and brokerage statements, your marriage certificate and both of your birth certificates.
  • Apply for death benefits. Call your insurance agent, your spouse’s employer and your local Social Security office.

Within the first month

  • Keep a record of your cash flow. This will help determine where you stand financially.
  • As insurance and other benefits come in, set aside the money in short-term bank certificates of deposit. That will buy you time to think about how to invest the money ultimately.

Within the first six months

  • Review your own will and change beneficiary designations on insurance policies or retirement plans that name your spouse. Also, change names on joint billing accounts or credit cards.
  • If you are executor or administrator of the estate, notify creditors and satisfy debts. Be careful: sending phony debt notices is a favorite con gome. Check bills and refer suspicious claims to your lawyer.

Between six months and a year

  • If you are an executor or administrator you must pay any taxes the estate owes. File federal estate owes. File federal estate taxes within nine months of the death if the estate is larger than $600,000. You must also pay the estate’s income taxes, due April 15, every year the estate is open.
  • Start to plan your future. Being to make decisions, you have postponed, including whether to sell your home and how to invest your inheritance.

Within the