No one likes to think about the loss of a spouse. While many of us have trust documents, wills and life insurance in place, few of us have planned for how to manage decisions while under tremendous emotional pressure.
In a typical household there is usually one person in charge of family business and finances, putting the other spouse at a disadvantage if he or she has to take over in a crisis. Creating a strategy today can ease the burden in the event of a loss. Together with your spouse, start a file of business and financial information, compile a listing and attach copies of insurance policies, investment and banking accounts, and other assets. Include names of your attorney, tax accountant and financial professionals.
Create a personal documents file. Include copies of Social Security cards, marriage certificates and birth certificates – both yours and your children’s. Start a separate file that lists all current monthly liabilities, their account numbers and due dates. Review regularly with your spouse and balance monthly statements together. Keep these newly established files in a fireproof safe at home. If you choose to keep a copy in a safe deposit box, make sure both names are listed on the account.
Identify someone to help out in a crisis, keeping a current address and phone number on file. This individual can be invaluable when making arrangements after the loss of a spouse.
There are a number of actions to be taken following the loss of a spouse. This is a quick reference to help keep the surviving partner from feeling overwhelmed or forgetting the important notifications.
Retrieve the files you created and review your plan.
Purchase at least 10 certified copies of the death certificate (through the funeral director or county health department).
File claims with life insurance companies.
Change signature cards on joint bank accounts and sign bank “powers of attorney” for individual accounts.
Open a separate checking account to manage the deceased’s assets and expenses.
Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-722-1213 to verify and claim benefits.
Notify unions or professional organizations of claim for death benefits.
Contact the employer’s HR department for applicable life, health or accident insurance benefits. Confirm payment of remaining vacation or sick leave.
Notify Department of Veterans Affairs for lump-sum burial claims, disability benefits or other allowances.
Cancel credit cards held in your spouse’s name only.
Transfer joint credit cards to your name.
Change the title on vehicle(s) through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Make appropriate changes to your own will, trust and insurance policy beneficiaries.
Involve your professional advisers, coordinating the services of your attorney, CPA and financial adviser.
Nothing can prepare you emotionally or physically for the death of a loved one. However, having a plan in place may free you from the daily burdens, allowing you to concentrate on yourself and your family.