The loss of a spouse is a devastating event, overwhelming some individuals to the point in which they completely shut down. Others become so busy that they focus only on what needs to get done.
I know this is a somber topic, but I feel that having this information will assist you and hopefully make this time easier for you to handle. I kindly ask that you take your time throughout this process, and I caution you not to rush to make any major decisions.
Use this spouse survivor checklist to help guide and ease you through the process:
- Locate the family’s important papers. Gather as many as possible, and continue to do so for the next few weeks.
- Be aware that certain jointly held assets, such as safe deposit boxes and joint checking or savings accounts, may be frozen as soon as the institution involved becomes aware that one of the joint owners has died. Although such assets are intended to pass to the surviving spouse outside the normal probate process, actual possession may be delayed pending a court order releasing them. This court order may depend on proof of inheritance or estate tax officials that the estate owns other assets adequate to pay potential estate or inheritance tax.
- Request several copies of the death certificate (there may be a fee), which you’ll need for the deceased’s employer, life insurance companies, and legal procedures.
- Notify your attorney. Make an appointment to review your spouse’s will and to discuss state and federal death taxes that may be payable.
- Notify life or accident insurers of the death. Be sure to provide the date of death, deceased’s name, Social Security number, and a copy of the death certificate.
- Contact your spouse’s former employer to find out about his/her retirement, pension and life insurance benefits. You will need to provide the date of death, deceased’s name, Social Security number, and a copy of the death certificate.
- Make any changes in ownership registration that may be necessary, focusing on the following items:
- charge accounts
- safe deposit boxes
- savings and checking accounts (you may wish to have a joint account with another member of your family);
- estate planning documents (ie. will and trust)
Tags: death of spouse, estate planning, probate, widowhood, Widows