5 Things You Should Do When Your Spouse Dies

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
A hand on a casket and flowers in the background

Knowing what to do when a spouse dies will help you get through the formalities of this devastating time so you can properly grieve the loss of your husband or wife. Keep reading to find out what you need to do financially and emotionally so you don't miss anything important.

Knowing What to Do When Your Spouse Dies

It seems unfair that during this extremely difficult time, you have to continue on and take care of business that has to do with the death of your spouse. However, it's imperative that you do it.

Enlist Help

This is the time to accept help from anyone that offers it. You are emotionally exhausted and you shouldn't put any additional stress on yourself than you have to at this time. A loved one can help run errands and just be there to listen when you need it. Don't go through this alone!

Spread the Word

You can have your loved one go through a list of contacts while you take care of other things such as contacting the newspaper and writing an obituary.

Make Funeral Arrangements

Call and make appointments to tour funeral homes and make funeral arragements. Once you find a funeral home, the director can take care of a lot of the paperwork after someone dies. The funeral director can obtain the death certificate and plan the wake and funeral with your input. Make sure you request several copies of the death certificate to keep with your financial documents.

Female mortician comforting and advising a woman in black

Gather Important Documents

After the funeral, it's time to take care of everything that was in your spouse's name. The following is a list of documents you should obtain so you can begin processing them into your name and take care of financial obligations:

  • Death certificate
  • Will
  • Birth certificate
  • Social security cards (yours and your spouse's)
  • Life insurance policy
  • Loan paperwork
  • Mortgage information
  • Bank statements
  • Leasing documents
  • Homeowner's insurance policy
  • Car insurance policy
  • Divorce agreements
  • Tax returns
  • Stocks and bonds information
  • Safe deposit box key
  • Bills
  • Medicare information (if applicable)
Life Insurance Policy with pen, calculator

Deal With Documents

While you may feel overwhelmed with the mountain of paperwork to take care of, it's not as cumbersome when you tackle one task at a time.

  • The first thing you must do is figure out how much money you have and how much debt your spouse owes. You will have to pay this debt before you and other beneficiaries will be able to receive assets. You are also required to file a tax return for your spouse to find out if you need to pay taxes.
  • The next thing you should do is change the name on the will, bank accounts, bills, and insurance policies. Don't forget to change the name on real estate and cars. If you and your spouse shared credit cards, contact the credit card companies and ask them to leave your name but remove your spouse's. Don't close credit cards and open new ones because you will lose some of the good credit if you paid on those cards as required.
  • You need to contact Social Security if your spouse received benefits. This is true of any pensions or retirement income as well.

Checklist for Things to Do When Your Spouse Dies

Sometimes it helps to list all of things you need to do. The Healthcare and Elder Law Programs Corporation (H.E.L.P.) created a checklist of things you should do when someone dies for you!

Take Care of Yourself Emotionally

Included in knowing what to do when your spouse dies is taking care of yourself emotionally. Not all of the formalities you must complete need attention immediately. Take some time to grieve. This person was your spouse who you cared for and loved deeply. It's not easy to continue on with life without the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.

5 Things You Should Do When Your Spouse Dies