Free Guide – What To Do When Your Spouse Dies – Financial Checklist

(Last Updated On: May 3, 2022)

The death of a spouse is one of the most challenging experiences any person has to go through. While you are grieving, it will be hard to focus and think clearly about what you need to do after. You may feel scared, confused, and depressed, and these feelings can be worst if the death was unexpected, your spouse was young and healthy, or you had not prepared emotionally and financially for such a tragic event. Here you can find a free guide and financial checklist of what to do when your spouse dies.

The first steps to take after the death of your spouse can be extremely tough. It is important to find support. Ask family members or close friends to help you get organized if you feel overwhelmed. They can help you plan the funeral, religious service, a celebration of life, cremation, or burial.

After all the funerary arrangements are taken care of, find the time to sit down and get organized to ensure you are not overlooking important legal and financial steps that need to be done promptly and correctly. If needed, contact an attorney or hire a financial advisor to help you sort out the process.


1. Obtain Medical Certificate of Death and Official Death Certificate:    You will need to get at least 12 copies of the official death certificate. In the event your spouse dies abroad, make sure to get the authenticated Consular Report of Death from the American consulate in the country where your spouse passed away. You will need to contact the American embassy or consulate so they can give you all the information you will need and the forms you need to fill out.  

2. Gather all Personal Identification Documents: Social security cards, Birth certificates, Marriage certificate, Passports,  Driver license,  Citizenship certificates,  Permanent Resident Cards.

3. Gather all financial documents: Bank accounts statements, Credit cards statements, Mortgage statements, Investment accounts statements, Stocks certificates, Pension/Retirement account statements, Social Security, SSI statements, Personal and Business Tax returns, Request a credit report to make sure you know all debts and loans.

4. Gather all insurance documents: Life insurance policies, Will/trust, Supplemental insurance policies, Health Insurance policies, Home insurance policy, Car insurance policy.

5. Gather all property titles and estate legal documents: Homes, Motor vehicles, boats, motorcycles, Business properties, leases, deeds

6. Gather all bills that need to be paid monthly: Electric, Water, Internet, Streaming, cable, dish, Subscriptions of any type, Telephone, cell phone, Mortgage, rent, PO boxes, Car payments, insurance, tolls, Student loans.  Make sure all bills are paid, if they are on auto payment, or make sure you know the due dates on any bills that are not. It is a good idea to create a budget if you haven’t done so; that way, you know your monthly expenses to help get organized. 

After you have gathered all the important documentation, make a list of everyone you need to contact:
  • Contact an attorney if your spouse had a will or estate. If you have children, it will be a good idea to create a new will and appoint a legal guardian in the case of your death. To know that your children will be appropriately taken care of will give you peace of mind  
  • Contact your spouse’s life insurance company to notify them of the death. They will send you all the information you will need to submit to them before issuing payment. Remember that it will take a few weeks before you can receive the funds, so make sure you have enough money to support yourself and your family while they process the claim.  
  • Contact a financial advisor in the case that you receive a large amount of money so that they can guide you on how to administer it better or invest it. Do not make any drastic financial decisions during the first three months after the death. When you are grieving, your brain might not be thinking properly.  
  • Contact your spouse’s employer to notify them of his or her death. Talk to the human resources department and ask about any benefits you may be entitled to, like life insurance, supplemental death policy, accumulated PTO hours, etc. Also, inquiry about your health insurance coverage options if you were covered under his or her policy.   
  • Contact the social security administration to notify them of your spouse’s death and find out about spouse survivor benefits. Depending on your spouse’s age at the time of death, you might be entitled to receive benefits or at least receive a one-time payment of about $ 255.  
  • Contact all banks, credit unions and notify them of the death to update the account holder’s information.  
  • Contact all credit card companies to notify them of the death and find out what options you have to close/cancel the accounts and how any debt will be handled.   
  • Contact all three credit bureaus and notify them of the death. They will let you know what you need to do after. You can put a freeze or lock on the credit file to prevent identity theft.  
  • Update/change the information on all accounts like car insurance, home insurance, house title, car title, deeds, etc.  
  • Contact any additional subscriptions that will need to be canceled.  
In conclusion,

After the death of your spouse, you may feel sad, angry, lost, and confused. It is a very difficult situation that can become overwhelming once you start to realize that your spouse is no longer with you and that you now have all the financial responsibilities of your household. Make sure to ask for help if you feel like you are not prepared to handle some of the things that need to be done.

Family and close friends can help guide, but sometimes it will be better to ask for professional advice from attorneys, accountants, or financial advisors.  I hope this quick financial checklist of what to do when your spouse dies will help you get organized to start your process. 

We also invite you to read: How to Cope with Grief and special occasions – 11 Helpful Tips


By: Yeszenia Gulloso

Yeszenia Gulloso

Yeszenia Gulloso es Técnico Licenciada en Ciencias Radiológicas R.T. (R)(CT) (ARRT), escritora motivacional, emprendedora, y madre de Allyson y Bryan.

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