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Money Matters: Staying Financially Sound After Losing a Spouse

It is certainly one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Losing your spouse, your life partner, not only causes heartache, the stress can be unbearable. Not only that, you are expected to start making decisions that will impact you for the rest of your life; financial decisions shouldn’t be made during the grieving period, but usually are and have to be.

Here is a checklist from our friends at Practical Money Skills for Life.

  • Gather legal and financial documents that will give a better sense of where you stand financially, including: wills, trusts and powers of attorney; mortgage and car title; tax returns; bank, loan and credit card statements; safe deposit box contents; insurance plans; and income sources.
  • Compile outstanding bills and monitor due dates to avoid late charges or penalties for: utilities; mortgage/rent; health, auto and homeowners insurance premiums; car, student and personal loans; and credit cards.
  • If your spouse was still working, contact his or her employer regarding unpaid salary, benefits, life insurance and retirement accounts. This is particularly important if they provide your health insurance.

Other critical actions to take within the first month or two include:

  • Contact companies where you have joint accounts and convert them to your name only. Also close any accounts that were in his or her name only that you don’t wish to maintain.
  • If your spouse was eligible for Social Security, you and your children may qualify for Survivor Benefits. Call (800) 772-1213 or visit
  • Similarly, if your spouse was a veteran, contact the VA regarding possible survivor benefits (
  • Pay attention to income tax filing dates, particularly if you file quarterly estimated taxes. While the IRS may waive penalty fees on a late filing or underpayment related to your spouse’s death, you’re still responsible for any taxes or interest owed. Call 800-829-1040 or read “Filing Late and/or Paying Late” at
  • Rewrite your will and other documents that outline how you’d like your financial and health matters handled if you die, become disabled or become seriously ill.
  • Until you have a better handle on your new living expenses, live frugally – especially if you’re used to having two incomes.

Don’t make irreversible financial decisions until you’ve had a chance adjust to your new status including paying off the mortgage or moving closer to family.


One response

  1. Pingback: Money Matters: Money Personality Quiz « wistatetreasury

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