17 Critical Steps to Take When Your Spouse Passes Away

Losing a loved one is extremely difficult for anyone, and things can feel much harder when it’s the person you’ve spent most of your life with. With so many different practicalities to take care of once they’re gone, things can get even more challenging. But not to worry—we’ve put together a list of the 17 most important things you need to do when your spouse has passed away.

Plan for Your Financial Future

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If your spouse played a key role in your finances, then it’s important to consider how you may need to change your budgeting, spending, or saving habits to account for their loss. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, it can be a good idea to contact a financial advisor to help you.

Allow Yourself to Grieve and Seek Support

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Before anything else, it’s very important that you let yourself grieve and lean on those around you for support. This is an incredibly difficult time, and you don’t have to do everything on your own. Our loved ones will usually be more than happy to help us take care of things so we can allow ourselves to grieve and feel. Consider seeking therapy or counseling for additional emotional support.

Obtain the Death Certificate

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Once you’re ready, you should request multiple copies of your spouse’s death certificate, which you can then pass along to the different entities who need them. You can get in touch with your local government office or funeral home to begin this process.

Notify Family and Friends

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It can feel extremely difficult to tell the people around you about your loved one’s passing, but it is an important step in moving forward and gaining the support you need. It’s best to start with your closest friends and family members, whom you could then ask to spread the news for you if you don’t feel up to it yourself.

Arrange Funeral or Memorial Services

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Whether your spouse wanted to be buried or cremated, it’s important to arrange the proper funeral or memorial service for the occasion. If you’re unsure exactly what to do, seek support in selecting a funeral home or making arrangements.

Secure the Estate and Property

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Securing the estate and property of a deceased spouse involves gathering important documents, such as personal identification and insurance, and notifying relevant institutions to ensure a smooth transition of assets. It’s important to ensure any properties are locked and safe as well.

Contact an Estate Attorney or Executor

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If your spouse had a will, now is the time to find it and get in touch with the will’s executor or estate attorney. You can then discuss the necessary steps to ensure your spouse’s wishes are fulfilled. If there is no will, you can speak with an attorney about your state laws, which will help you decide what to do next.

Notify Employers and Benefit Providers

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If your spouse was still working, you should notify their employer about their passing and ensure you receive any final paychecks, life insurance, or benefits they were owed. Now is also a good time to ask about any survivor benefits you may be entitled to from social security, veteran’s benefits, or pensions.

Manage Financial Accounts

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Another important step is contacting your loved one’s banks or other financial institutions to let them know that they have passed away and ask about the next steps in dealing with their accounts. You can also convert any joint accounts to your name, or close them if you prefer.

Update Legal Documents

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Legal documents involving your spouse will need to be updated after their passing. Review and edit your will, healthcare directives, and power of attorney as needed. You should also update any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or other accounts where your spouse was listed as your beneficiary.

Take Care of Your Emotional Health

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With all these practical matters and paperwork to deal with, it’s easy to let your mental health slip through the cracks. It’s important to ensure that before anything else, you’re getting the support and care you need. The National Institutes of Health show that it can be highly beneficial to participate in grief counseling or other support groups.

Establish Your Own Health Insurance

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In cases where you were covered by your spouse’s health insurance policy, it’s important to look into getting your own coverage. You may also want to consider supplemental policies for other specific health needs, such as vision or dental care.

Review and Adjust Retirement Plans

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Our spouses often play a key role in our financial and retirement plans, so once they’re gone, it’s necessary to review and adjust. Assess your current savings and income sources and make any necessary arrangements to ensure you have all the resources you need for the future.

Secure Immediate Financial Resources

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Sadly, a loved one’s passing can be a rather costly period for many. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have the necessary financial resources to cover their funeral expenses and any other costs that may arise. If you need support, consider reaching out to your loved ones, community, or local organizations for financial assistance.

Notify Credit Reporting Agencies

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It’s a good idea to notify the three main credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, of your spouse’s passing to keep identity theft at bay. You may also want to obtain a copy of your spouse’s credit report in case there are any outstanding debts or accounts.

Cancel or Transfer Services and Memberships

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We often have numerous different services, subscriptions, and memberships that can be hard to keep track of. If you know your spouse was signed up for services such as these, it’s important to review and cancel any that are no longer needed.

Evaluate Life Changes and Personal Goals

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Finally, once you’re feeling a little more clear-headed, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your life goals. Your spouse obviously played a huge role in your life, so it’s a good idea to consider how your personal, career, and lifestyle goals may have changed now. As noted by Experience Camps, it’s healthy to make space for the new and cultivate new interests and hobbies. Consider seeking therapy or life coaching if you need additional guidance.

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