6 Things To Do Immediately if Your Partner Passes Away

For many people, the most difficult experience they can imagine is the experience of having their life partner pass away. That moment, as personally painful as it can be, is also a moment of significant financial impact, and there are several things you should take care of in the days following your partner’s passing.

Here are six key things you should do quickly if your partner passes away.

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    6 financial steps to take if your partner passes away

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help

    When your partner passes away, most of the people in your inner circle will step up like never before. Your family and friends will want to help you, even if they’re not suggesting it. Let them.

    This is a moment where it is OK to ask for help. If you’re struggling to do something like getting food, organizing papers or even just resting, call a friend or a family member. Tell them specifically what they can do to help so that they have a concrete task. Not only does it help you, but it can also be part of their grieving process.

    Make funeral, burial or cremation plans

    If you know your partner’s wishes regarding burial and cremation, you can move forward based on those plans. If you’re unsure, this is a great moment to lean on family and friends to help you make this decision. 

    If you do not have a particular institution of choice, ask several close family members and friends what their experiences have been and follow their recommendation. Most funeral homes and crematoriums that are established in a community are professional and handle the process well.

    You will personally have to handle some elements, but many of the details can be taken care of by someone you trust.

    [ Read: A Funeral Costs How Much? ]

    File for a death certificate

    If you are using a funeral home or crematorium, that institution will help you compile and submit the forms needed for an official death certificate. That certificate will be filed with the vital records office in your area and you’ll be able to get certified copies of the certificate as needed.

    Obtaining a death certificate needs to be done quickly, as you’ll need copies of it for things like filing a death claim with your life insurance provider. Those matters can wait for a while, but getting a death certificate filed is a fundamental step. 

    [ Read: Best Life Insurance Companies ]

    Contact your tax preparer and family lawyer

    When a person passes, there are a number of legal questions that will likely need to be addressed. Two key people to contact are your tax preparer and your family lawyer.

    A tax preparer will advise you on any additional steps you need to take to make sure you don’t run afoul of any tax or other financial issues. 

    On the other hand, a family lawyer will help you process the will and other estate documents and be ready if any other legal matters arise.

    Lawyers and tax preparers are professionals in their field and know how to handle these situations, as they’re all too common. Give them notice and let them do what they do best.

    [ Read: The 5 Best Free Tax Softwares ]

    Start gathering documents

    While no one will expect you to immediately produce every document relating to your partner’s financial and legal state, it’s a good idea to start gathering them. Here are some documents you may want to have handy.

    • Estate documents, including a will, trusts and life insurance policies.
    • Birth and marriage certificates.
    • Social Security cards — both yours and your partner’s.
    • Divorce documents, if your partner has been previously divorced.
    • Financial records, including tax returns from recent years, bank statements, investment account statements, pension statements, retirement savings statements (401(k), 403(b), TSP and other similar accounts), stock certificates, loan statements, mortgage documents, leases, deeds and vehicle titles.
    • Insurance documents, particularly life insurance and health insurance policies, but any other insurance policies that may include them.
    • Bills in their name.
    • Safe-deposit box documents and the keys.
    • Military service records, if applicable.

    You don’t have to immediately know where these documents are located. You can start with just the will and with life insurance policies. Again, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted friend to help you go through unsorted documents to find these things.

    [ Read: How Much Term Life Insurance Do You Need? ]

    Make a few phone calls

    There will be a few essential calls you’ll need to make beyond your tax preparer and lawyer. 

    You’ll want to contact the Social Security Administration to ensure that you’re eligible to receive any survivor benefits and turn off any benefits your partner may have been receiving.

    If they were employed, you’ll want to contact their employer so that they don’t continue to pay your partner. They may also be vital in identifying any benefits you may receive and moving forward with things like health insurance. If your partner was a member of a union, contact that union as well.

    If your partner was a veteran, you can contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as they can help you to establish any benefits you may be eligible for.

    In addition, if your partner was in any business with others, contact the business partners so that the legal status of those businesses can be updated.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Trent Hamm

    Founder & Columnist

    Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

    Reviewed by

    • Nashalie Addarich
      Nashalie Addarich
      Insurance Editor

      Nasha Addarich is an editor at The Simple Dollar and a former attorney who specializes in home insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, and savings. She is a former contributing editor to Reviews.com.