Managing Finances After Your Spouse Dies

The death of a spouse can be one of the most difficult challenges in life that one might ever experience.  It’s hard enough to lose your best friend, and the added stress of managing finances can seem daunting, especially if your spouse took care of all the bills.

Turning to family and friends for support is important to help you cope with your loss.  It’s also helpful to work with a financial planner you trust who can guide you through the following areas and keep you on track with your finances.  The thought of taking care of these areas can seem overwhelming, which is why they’re broken into steps you should focus on now and steps to manage later.

Financial Steps To Take Now

Update Financial Account

It’s important to let the financial companies know about the passing of your spouse.  This will help as you convert each account into your name.  The company may ask for a death certificate, so be sure to obtain 10-15 copies so that you have enough for each account provider.  You should notify the following: your bank, credit card company, retirement account provider, insurance providers (health, life, auto, home), social security office, and any other place you receive financial statements from.

Review Legal Documents

If you and your spouse established a will and/or a trust, review the terms set in each document.  Provide these documents to your legal or financial council for review and advice.  If assets to be distributed are not a part of a will, they may be subject to probate – a legal process through which a deceased person’s property is distributed to the heirs.

Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities will pass directly to the beneficiaries without the need of probate.  As you contact each company, be sure to keep a separate folder for each account type so that you can easily reference documents and stay organized moving forward.

Review Billing Schedule

If you are familiar with paying the bills, make sure they’re in order because they might be forgotten as you handle everything in preparation for the funeral.  If you’re unsure about paying the bills, start by looking at bank statements, copies of checks, and billing statements to find out what gets paid and when it is due.  You can organize the bills after things have settled; this is to just make sure the most pressing bills (mortgage, electric, water, insurance) are being paid on time.

If you are unable to make a payment because of the expenses from the funeral or other financial reasons, try calling the creditors and explain your situation.  They may provide a grace period so that you can get things sorted out.

Financial Steps To Take Later

Review Your Budget

After you’ve had some time to catch up with all that’s happened, you can start reviewing your expenses and set a new budget.  This is important because your income may change as well as your expenses.  It’s the perfect time to get organized and to start tracking your spending.  Keep separate files for the statements you receive in the mail so that you can easily access the type of account if you have questions.

Review Retirement Investments

Spend some time with a financial advisor to review your retirement investments to see if you need to change anything.  You may need to make a shift to become more conservative or aggressive depending on your situation.  If you’re already in retirement, have your advisor run a projection to see how long your retirement withdrawals will last.

Start New Financial Goals

What do you want to do in the next 5, 10, or 15 years?  Do you want to downsize your home?  Work part time?  Spend more time with your grandchildren?  Make the decision to work towards those goals and adjust your finances accordingly.

Even if you’re new to the idea of managing your finances, you can learn how to take care of the bills with time.  Remember the encouragement Paul gives in Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

We serve a God who comforts us in all our troubles and provides for all our needs and I’m confident He’ll bring peace to those who have suffered a loss of a loved one.

Do you have any advice for the readers for managing finances after a spouse has passed?

Photo by Christina Rutz

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