Financial Checklist for the Surviving Spouse

Very few painful life events can compare to losing a spouse. The emotions you’re experiencing can be overwhelming and oftentimes can be accompanied by concerns over your future financial security. You may be wondering…

Who should I contact first?

How soon do I need to change our information for our financial accounts?

Where will my income come from?

Can I afford to stay in our house? 

The first thing we think you should do is contact your Bartlett advisor. Our objective is to give clients peace of mind when the unthinkable happens. Your advisor can offer experience in this area, simplifying what feels like a daunting process, reviewing your overall financial picture and helping prioritize your next steps. During this time you can plot a course toward financial security for the rest of your life.

In the meantime, here are some of the tasks you will need to work on in the initial days and weeks following a loss.

The First Few Days

Choosing a funeral home is one of the first steps. The home will assist you in determining the funeral arrangements, notifying Social Security of the death, and obtaining death certificates. Check the deceased person’s will for any requests regarding funeral and burial arrangements. Enlist family members and close friends to assist you in these steps. Remember that accepting help during this difficult time will give you the necessary breaks to process the grief you’re experiencing.

Tackling the Short Term

After the funeral, it will be time to begin gathering important documents in a central, portable place such as a fire-safe box or an electronic portal. Things like:

  • Will/trust
  • Insurance policies (car, health, home, life, etc.)
  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Social Security cards (for both spouses)
  • Tax returns
  • Divorce agreements
  • Bank statements
  • Investment account statements
  • Stock certificates
  • Pension/retirement plan documents
  • Deeds, mortgages, leases, and loan statements
  • Motor vehicle titles
  • Bills and expense sheets

As you collect these documents, be sure to note any upcoming or past-due bills so that you can prioritize them as you create a plan for transitioning your loved one’s financial assets.

Planning for the Future

Once you have all of the important documents in place, begin calling former employers, banks and credit unions, financial advisors, insurance companies, beneficiaries, and creditors. This process could take several weeks, so be patient and take it one day at a time. Above all, be sure to end each phone call with a clear understanding of the necessary steps for transitioning the deceased’s financial engagement—and where possible, ask for documentation of closed accounts and transferred assets.

There is no easy way to face the loss of a spouse, but having the right people at your side will at least help you manage the financial aspects of grief. Reach out to your Bartlett advisor at any point, and know that there is help and experience just a phone call away.

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