Girl in graduation cap and gown hugging her mother

Actions to take now, things you can set aside

Unfortunately, in the immediate aftermath of your loss, you will have to make a number of decisions about your finances. Some financial issues will need your attention right away, while others can wait. Determine what needs your attention now and what you can — and often should — set aside.

Actions to take now

Before you get started, it’s important that you assemble important papers, including the death certificate, will, Social Security statement, life insurance policies, tax returns, birth certificate, marriage certificate and veterans' benefit statement.

  • Collect your spouse’s life records and documents, and pass them along to the executor.
  • If you and your family had health insurance coverage through your loved one’s benefits at work, reach out to the company to discuss continuing the coverage.
  • Help the executor begin the estate settlement process.
  • File claims for insurance benefits and secure health insurance coverage (see below for more information).
  • If you didn’t before, you’ll have to step up to the responsibilities of managing the finances of your household day to day.
  • Check your Social Security statement for payment and benefits information.

Things you can set aside

It can take up to a year after your spouse dies, perhaps even longer, to feel ready to take on major lifestyle decisions. That’s why it’s smart to wait to make financial decisions that are not necessarily pressing, such as:

  • Selling your house and/or your vacation home
  • Making major changes to your investments
  • Retooling your retirement plans
  • Gifting money to relatives or charities

Eventually, you will be ready to make long-term decisions such as whether to downsize your home or move closer to a relative or close friend. But it’s OK to take your time.

Recovering emotionally

Recognizing you are in the midst of a trauma is the most important step toward putting your life back together. Then you can focus on coping with your loss and perhaps seeking help from friends, a local support group or connecting with others who are experiencing a similar loss.

Bear in mind that there may be an employee assistance program at your work that offers grief counseling or other helpful services. And know that your family and friends are on your side to help you through this emotional time and head toward a positive future.