Loss of a spouse

The aftermath of your spouse's death is no doubt a difficult time for you and your family. You're already coping with many emotions, and there are usually financial matters that must be dealt with as well.

Here are some strategies for managing your finances while coping with the death of a spouse.

First steps

Unfortunately, you will need to act on some financial issues right away. Your advisor can help you pinpoint these tasks and navigate through them during this difficult time.

  • Contact your attorney to review your spouse's will and start the estate settlement process.
  • Obtain copies of the death certificate as well as your spouse's last Social Security and veterans' benefit statements.
  • Gather important documents and financial records (birth certificates, marriage certificates, life insurance policies) so you can transfer assets, close accounts and complete other tasks.
  • Locate all of your user names and passwords for your electronic accounts.
  • Contact your insurance agent to assist you with the claims process.
  • Contact your spouse's employer for information on filing for benefits, especially health care.
  • If you're 60 or older, determine if you should start taking Social Security spousal benefits and whether you need to file an estate tax form.
  • Re-title jointly owned assets.

Review your current financial situation

Your financial advisor can help you navigate through this difficult time by assessing your financial situation, including:

  • Your current income.
  • Proceeds coming from life insurance policies.
  • What to do with any investments and retirement savings accounts that your spouse may have had.

Consider your future

It can take a year or longer after your spouse dies before you start feeling emotionally ready to take on major lifestyle decisions. That’s why it’s okay, even smart, to wait until you’re ready before you make any financial decisions that aren’t imperative, such as selling your home. Take some time to think about the goals you and your spouse shared and decide how your goals as an individual may change.

  • If you still have dependents at home, can you provide for them by yourself?
  • Will you continue to contribute to education funds for your children?
  • Will your vision for retirement change drastically?

Other financial questions to consider

In addition, you may wish to discuss the following questions with your attorney, tax professional and financial advisor:

  • Have you reviewed and changed beneficiary designations as appropriate?
  • Is probate necessary? Have you filed the appropriate tax returns?
  • Have the tax consequences of gifting money to relatives and charities been considered?
  • Have you evaluated your tax filing status?
  • Do you need to address your credit situation or establish separate credit?

Get help with your financial planning needs after the death of a spouse

An Ameriprise financial advisor can help you handle complex financial matters and realign your financial plan during this difficult time in your life.