The death of a spouse or loved one has always proven to be difficult. Yet, during this time important financial decisions and arrangements must be made. Upon the death of a spouse or loved one actions must be taken within the first few months to secure financial stability. Despite the immense grief and whirlwind of emotions going on, a solution must be made to avoid making a bad situation even worse. Having a plan will bring calmness and ease to your situation and will help you move forward. This guide will provide you with tips on how to start moving forward and financially secure yourself or household after the death of someone you care about.
Get Help and Get Organized
During this period of time you cannot do everything alone. Seek out the help of a family friend or even family members who were also close to the deceased so that they can help you organize everything. This will relieve the stress of taking on everything and feeling alone, work together to make a list of priorities that need to be addressed right away. Your list should look something like this:
- Funeral Service and Burial Cost
- Will and Trust Matters
- Income or Employment Matters
- Investments (such as stock) and Mutual Funds
- Tax Documents
- Current Bills
You may also want to create a second list of professional contacts that you can seek guidance from during this difficult time. This list should include:
- An accountant
- Legal representation advisers
- Credit counsellor
How to Avoid Financial Difficulty before Sudden Events
We strongly advise you to create a credit profile for yourself including all of your personal information. Creating an emergency budget and a backup plan is also a good idea. Credit counsellors and counselling agencies can help you analyze your budget and help you make a plan that is right for you and your family.
Who to Call?
The next thing you should do is create a list of those whom you should call after your loved one has passed. That list may include:
- Your spouse’s or loved one’s employer
- Canada Pension Plan
- Old Age Security
- Insurance agents (for any policies or claim forms)
- Banks and other financial institutions
- Department of Veteran Affairs (if the deceased person was a military veteran)
- Credit card companies ( to assess any debts)
Collecting the Papers
One of the most important parts of becoming financially stable after the death of a spouse or loved one is to gather all of papers that belonged to him or her. These papers will also be needed to file for various benefits and to finalize an estate.
The Death and Birth Certificate
The majority of offices and agencies that you’ll be in contact with over the next month will more than likely need a copy of the death certificate. You’ll need to purchase several copies through the appropriate department; you’ll be charged a couple of dollars per copy. You should also get official copies of the birth certificate as they may also be required.
Copies of home, life, health, and accident insurance policies are also extremely important to have. There is a possibility that these insurance policies could provide you with benefits and they will most likely be asked for when filing claims.
Social Security Numbers
You will need to know the Social Security Number of not only the deceased spouse or loved one, but also all dependent children. If you have trouble finding the social security number it will be listed on the death certificate.
Military Discharge Papers
You will need a copy of an honourable (or anything other than dishonourable) discharge papers if your spouse or loved one was a veteran. To get this, simply write or contact your Department of Defense.
For you to claim any benefits that are based on the fact that you were married to the deceased you will need several copies of your marriage certificate.
Children’s Birth Certificates
You will need all of the dependent children’s birth certificates
If there is a will in place you will need a copy of it. This could be as simple as something the deceased wrote and stored with their personal belongings or it may be with a lawyer, in a safe, or safety deposit box.
List of Assets
If your spouse or loved one owned property, had assets or investments you’ll also need all the paperwork that proves ownership.
The next step is to contact various sources of benefits and to make decisions about payment
- Life Insurance
- Mortgage or Loan Insurance
- Accident Insurance
- Auto Insurance
- Credit Card Insurance
- Employer Insurances
Along with check on the insurances you should also check in on Social Security, Veteran’s Benefits, and Employer Benefits.
When a spouse or loved one dies anything you inherit from them will be tax-free, both income and estate. Make sure you research all your options and get the advice of your accountant, preparing the tax returns because the filing rules are quite complicated and many tax-saving opportunities might be overlooked by someone who is under qualified.
Saving Money on Bills
To save immediate money on debts first analyze all of the debts and put them into three categories:
- Your personal debts
- Spouse’s debts
- Joint debts
You are required to pay off your debts and joint debts, but not those of your spouse or loved one. In most cases, your spouse’s estate will pay for their own debts. Loans, credit cards in both names, property taxes in which both you and your spouse owned together, and household expenses are considered joint debts and you will be responsible for those. Hospital bills, funeral expenses, and legal fees occurring because your spouse’s death are considered estate debts.
Moving On and Planning for the Future
Moving on after the death of a spouse or loved one can take some time, and while it’s in your best interest to take all the time you need to mourn properly, getting a head start on all the financial issues is also in your best interest. Make sure you get all the help you need as it will make dealing with the tedious financial concerns a bit more manageable during this difficult time.