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Death of Your Spouse

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My spouse recently passed away, and there are so many loose ends to tie up. What should I do next?

Give yourself some time after the funeral or other service. You will need to make sure that you have a copy of the death certificate. Financial institutions and others you may deal with may request a copy before they disperse funds or property.

TIP: Make sure you locate the original will so it can be entered into the probate court in the county where your spouse lived.

Who should I contact if my spouse dies?

First, contact relatives and friends. They can be of great comfort and assistance during this time. Contact the deceased's employer so the proper paperwork can be started. The employer can take care of final wage or salary payments and any retirement savings accounts set up through the employer. Also, notify your local Social Security office. You will receive a one-time death benefit from Social Security. Also, check with your bank and any other financial institution where accounts are held in order to ensure proper distribution of assets.

I am not sure what benefits I am eligible for after my spouse's death. How can I find out?

First, check with your spouse's employer to determine if your spouse had any retirement benefits that are payable to you as the beneficiary. Also, call your local Social Security office to inquire about a death benefit you may be eligible for as a surviving spouse. If your spouse was a member of the military, you may be eligible for military veterans' benefits. Contact your local Veterans' Administration office if you think you qualify.

Hopefully, you and your spouse talked about what would happen in the event of either of your deaths. Talking ahead of time about how you will be supported after your spouse's death can be difficult, but it will save you a lot of time, stress and uncertainty and provide a needed level of security.