Getting your affairs in order
Your spouse has passed away, and you are now faced with the prospect of handling your finances by yourself. Maybe you’ve always done the finances in your family, but you now feel in over your head with the sheer quantity of financial concerns you have to deal with in the period following your spouse’s passing. There may be some financial tasks you can put off for a bit, while others need your prompt attention.
Not sure where to start? Perhaps you can begin by getting organized. You’ll need to locate the pertinent documents and records you need in order to apply for benefits. You’ll also need to set up a systematic way to keep those records and other information you receive fully organized. You’ll also need to figure out your income need for the near future. Once you’ve done all this, you’ll be prepared to begin arranging your long-term financial affairs with the advice of professional financial experts.
In order to resolve your spouse’s estate without issues or to apply for insurance proceeds or government assistance, you’ll need certain documents. Finding these documents, and requesting certified copies of particular ones should be one of the first things you do as you organize your finances. In order to get life insurance benefits, for example, you’ll need to send them a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate as well as potentially a copy of the life insurance policy itself. Applying for Social Security benefits is similar—but need to provide a death certificate, proof of marriage, and proof of age via a birth certificate.
Organize your files.
Setting up a good filing system is important. This little fact has probably already been brought home to you if you have had to hunt for an important document and couldn’t find it. To keep your financial affairs in order, you’ll want to set up a paper or digital file for each different area of your finances. For example, you should set up different folders for any estate documents, insurance records, social security benefits, pensions, IRS tax information, and other important financial documents. Whenever you receive any communication pertaining to one of your financial categories, put it in the relevant file. If you aren’t allowed to store the original file, then see if you can make a copy. Keep copies of any paper letters you send out, and make digital copies of any important financial emails you’ve sent out, too.
Evaluate short-term income and expenses
Even if insurance will eventually cover expenses related to the death of your spouse, you’ll still have some immediate expenses that you’ll need to pay when your spouse passes away. These charges might include funeral expenses, your regular bills and potentially increased transportation above and beyond what you normally do.
You first need to figure out what debts you need to pay over the next month or so. Determine if you have enough funds to pay your immediate debts. If you don’t, try not to worry. If you’re certain that enough funding will be arriving later on from insurance benefits or estate settlement, you have several options. One option is to use credit cards to pay what you can of your immediate expenses. Some insurance companies may allow you to get at least a portion of the life insurance proceeds within only a few days—check your policy.
You may also be able to delay some expenses for a period of time through negotiations with your creditors. This will give you breathing room in order to make sure you’ve applied for all the benefits you should be receiving and to find out when the money you need will arrive.
The death of a spouse is a traumatic event, and finances can make it even more complex and stressful. A little forethought and planning, however, can go a long way towards making this difficult life event as easy as possible.