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What to Do When the Unthinkable Occurs

Posted by Bridget Murray | Jun 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

You know that someday you and your spouse will die. But when you are young, it simply doesn't seem possible. Here are some tips for coping with an unexpected loss of a spouse.

There are many different kinds of grief, but when a spouse dies at an exceptionally young age, it is hard to know how to move forward—even when there are tasks that must be taken care of. In The Huffington Post's article, "The Business of Surviving a Spouse," details are provided for what has to happen shortly after the person has died.

Some decisions may be put off because they're simply too difficult when grief is fresh, but there are decisions that need to be made that are simple and straightforward. These are usually issues that concern getting the affairs of the deceased in order. It may seem daunting and overwhelming, but the right guidance and preparation can be a big help.

Consult with an estate planning attorney to help you submit claims for benefits due as the surviving spouse and assess your spouse's debts and assets. However, in order to do this, you need to collect the following documents:

  • At least 10 original death certificates (from the funeral home or the Vital Statistics office where the death occurred);
  • Estate planning documents, such as the will and trusts;
  • Insurance policies;
  • The most recent credit card and mortgage statements;
  • Investment account statements;
  • The past three years of tax returns;
  • Marriage, birth, and (if applicable) divorce certificates of the spouse and children of the deceased;
  • Checking and savings account statements;
  • Any other loan documents;
  • Car registrations; and
  • Social Security information.

With these documents and information at the ready, notify these institutions of the death to close out accounts and submit claims:

  • The spouse's employer;
  • Social Security;
  • Veterans Affairs (if applicable);
  • U.S. Postal Service;
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • Insurance companies;
  • Credit bureaus;
  • Financial institutions;
  • Service providers; and
  • Any charities that automatically withdraw a donation from a checking account.

Nothing will take away the heartbreak of this loss, but spending time dealing with the estate and the paperwork can sometimes provide a modicum of relief as your focus shifts, even if only for a short while.

ReferenceHuffington Post (April 2, 2016) "The Business of Surviving a Spouse"

About the Author

Bridget Murray

Attorney at Law, Principal Attorney Murray has been practicing in the area of Estate Planning for 20 years. Prior to becoming an attorney, she wrote for The Economist in Tokyo, worked as a financial analyst for State Street Bank, and earned an MBA in International Management (Thunderbird School ...


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