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Wilma Anderson


What Should You Do Next?

When a Spouse dies we’re left with a myriad of choices and a ‘To-Do’ list that can feel exhausting. Here’s a few tips and suggestions to help you get started:
  1. Make a list of your assets. Dig out the copies of your joint tax records for the past five years, records of your Spouse’s and your own retirement plans, all insurance policies, bank and brokerage accounts, and the deed to your house. These should all be kept in a safe place and then call a Financial Advisor to help you to assess your situation.

  2. Obtain death certificates. You'll need to make about two dozen copies of your Spouse’s death certificate. Any credit cards that you have, your mortgage holder, and your insurers need to be notified and given a copy of the death certificate to verify the date of death.

  3. Make an appointment at the Social Security office to file for benefits. The Social Security Administration ( will need to be notified about your Spouse’s death. You must have been married for at least nine months before your spouse's death to be eligible for survivor’s benefits, unless his/her death was the result of an accident or military service. If you have children under the age of 18 there may be a monthly benefit to help pay for their care and upkeep. A widow or widower is entitled to a survivor benefit that is equal to 100% of the deceased spouse's benefit, as long as the survivor waits until full retirement age to collect. You can collect a survivor benefit as early as 60, but your benefit will be permanently reduced a bit for each month you claim before your full retirement age. (It's reduced by 28.5% if you claim at 60.)
    If you were collecting a spousal benefit, you can "step up" to a survivor benefit. At that point, the spousal benefit will disappear. If you are younger than full retirement age and decide to wait to claim the full survivor benefit, you will stop receiving the spousal benefit. If your husband dies before claiming a benefit, you will be eligible for a survivor benefit equal to the benefit he was entitled to at the time of his death.

  4. Notify your Spouse’s employer and file for any benefits that may be owed to you, such as pension income, life insurance and health insurance coverage. Contact the human resource department at the employer’s office and they can assist you with the paperwork. You may need to talk to more than one employer if your Spouse qualified for more than one retirement plan. Find out about settlement options. Some plans ask you to choose between a lump-sum payment or annuitized payments, which are made every year.

  5. File life insurance claims. Alert your Spouse’s life insurance company and start the claims process. They will need a copy of the death certificate to file your claim. Your insurance agent should have all the policy information you will need and be able to help you obtain the necessary forms.

  6. Notify state government offices. Be sure to contact the motor vehicles bureau in your state to change his/her car registration to your name, and to cancel his/her driver’s license. Your car insurance Agent should be notified and they can cancel any coverage that was in force for your Spouse. You may be entitled to a refund for any unused coverage after the date of your Spouse’s death if you paid car insurance premiums in advance (This is a great way to protect against future Identity Theft too.)

  7. Contact financial services providers. If you had any joint accounts while you were while married, these should be transferred to an account in your name. A death certificate will be necessary to do this. If your Spouse had a brokerage account, ask his/her Broker to give you a value of the account at the time of his/her death. Your estate taxes will be based on the evaluation of assets in all his/her accounts. If your Spouse had an IRA or 401K account that balance can be rolled into a new IRA in your name, or rolled into an existing IRA account that you may already have. There is not a taxable event, so don’t worry. Just be sure to use a very competent Financial Advisor to help guide you through the options that are available to you.

  8. Update your health insurance policy. If your Spouse worked for a company that has a health plan covering 20 or more employees, by law, the plan must continue to offer you, and any dependents, health coverage for at least 18 months, but this coverage at times can be stretched for up to three years if you have dependent. Also, be sure to update any life or disability insurance policies and be sure to change the beneficiaries on any of those policies to someone other than your deceased Spouse.

  9. Put your money someplace safe. This is not the time to be taking hot stock tips from anyone. Most Financial Advisors should recommend that you refrain from investing any lump-sum insurance or pension payout right into the stock market, especially if you are 55 or better in age. Ask your Financial Advisor about a Risk Tolerance test to make sure that your money is placed and invested into investments that make sense to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure about something. This area of your life needs very careful planning.

  10. A budget is important. You’ve already assembled the important documents. Now you need to decide how to allocate your new monthly income to meet your needs, as well as investing your money, planning for your children's or grandchildren’s education, having your own funeral plans in place for the future, and so forth. How much income do you have? How much do you spend each month? Determine which bills must be paid and which are optional, such as your health club membership or vacations. Then you’ll have your budget priorities.

  11. Take it slow. After you have negotiated through the must-do list and found the crucial documents, take a breath. Don't be pressured to make financial decisions without asking the questions that you want to know. Set up an appointment with a Financial Adviser whom you can trust to help you develop a short-term and long-term investment plan.

“There’s a solution for everyone, you just need a Financial Advisor who can listen, who understands your individual needs, and then can guide you carefully to the choices which are available to you.”

Wilma G. Anderson, RFC
-September 2016
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Wilma Anderson

No matter what crisis you've faced in your life, whether it's with the challenge of how to invest, or how to find the courage to go forward with new energy & resolve after a crisis is over, there are solutions.

With over thirty years of experience in healthcare benefits, financial products and personal services, Wilma shares her knowledge and insight with people and organizations all across the country. Read more. . .

Keywords: Long Term Care, Critical Care Coverage, Veteran Benefits, Annuities, Crisis Courage, Life Insurance, LTC Coach, Financial Advisor

Coverage Areas: Denver, Littleton, Lakewood, Castle Rock, Arvada, Fort Collins