My Spouse Has Passed Away. What Do I Need To Do?

When a spouse dies, the survivor will likely feel overwhelmed and may have a difficult time knowing what to do next.   The following is a list of basic steps that the survivor will need to take after the loss of a spouse:

Contact a funeral home immediately and arrange for the burial and memorial services.

Prepare an obituary and consider newspapers for publication.

Notify the employer of the deceased spouse.

Contact previous employers regarding possible pension or other retirement plans and to determine any survivor’s benefits.

Notify the Social Security Administration and any other benefit programs that may be making payments to the deceased spouse or that may be paying a death benefit.

Notify family members, friends and acquaintances.

Contact your financial advisor.

Contact your accountant.

Contact your casualty and liability insurance carrier (homeowner and car).

Obtain access to the deceased spouse’s safety deposit box (if any).

Contact credit card companies.

Consider payment of debts. Debts of the deceased spouse should be paid by the deceased spouse’s estate. A mortgage on a jointly owned home generally should be paid by the joint owner.

Contact your attorney. This does not have to be done immediately after the death but you should speak to an attorney within two months after the date of death to be sure that you take advantage of important post-mortem planning opportunities. It is best not to make any claims for death benefits under a life insurance policy, annuity, IRA, 401(k) or other type of retirement account before reviewing planning options with a knowledgeable attorney.

Gather the following documents:

• The original Will;

• Revocable and Irrevocable Trust Agreements (if applicable);

• Death certificate;

• Marriage certificate;

• Birth certificate;

• Military discharge documents (if applicable);

• Birth certificates of children;

• Deeds for real property;

• Statements relating to bank and investment accounts;

• Life insurance policies

• Title to any vehicles; and

• Any other information regarding assets owned by your spouse.

Your attorney will be able to guide you through the necessary steps to settle your spouse’s estate.

Posted on 1/28/2011 by Kasey S. Galner, Associate, Chipman, Mazzucco, Land & Pennarola, LLC.

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