How to Take Care of Financial and Legal Issues After a Spouse's Death


When you are grieving the death of a spouse, it is often difficult to make legal and financial decisions or even know where to begin. Some legal and financial matters, however, are rather urgent and require your attention. It is often helpful to have a friend or family member help you handle these tasks.

  • Make funeral or memorial service arrangements.

  • Find all important papers and certificates. This could include some or all of the following: birth, adoption and marriage certificates, military papers, Social Security card, tax forms, citizenship papers, employment and employee benefit records, tax returns, will, property records, vehicle registration, deeds, bank books, credit card information, veteran's benefits and life insurance.

  • Secure a sufficient number of death certificates.

  • Contact your deceased spouse's employer, union, professional organization or any group with which your deceased spouse had an association. Do this in writing and keep a copy of all correspondence.

  • Ask your bank to release joint bank account funds to you. If necessary, set up a new bank account in your own name.

  • Contact your Social Security office to find out if you or any dependent children are eligible for benefits. Notify all insurance companies, in writing, that your spouse has died. Keep a copy of all correspondence.

  • Consult the deceased's lawyer regarding a will and other estate planning documents, and to determine whether you need to change your own will. An accountant or tax attorney will help you find out what needs to be done to file federal and state tax returns. They can also help you with matters pertaining to estate taxes.


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