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Be Wise With Money

5 Financial Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

A list of important financial tasks that need attention after a loved one's passing

The death of somebody you love is one of life's most difficult and devastating experiences.

And while every person's journey with grief is different, in the weeks and months following the loss of a loved one, you may feel as though it's difficult to think clearly.

The simplest of tasks and the smallest of decisions can feel overwhelming and exhausting. This is a natural part of the grieving process.

And yet, there are many financial tasks that need your attention – especially in the weeks and months ahead.

A guide to getting things done

1. Gather as many documents as you can.

Create a workspace to organize all of the financial papers. Don't worry if you can't find everything listed here. Think of this as a starting point.

You'll need to find:

  • The will, trust and any other estate documents (insurance policies, beneficiary designations, names and phone numbers of professionals you work with).
  • Social Security number.
  • Birth and marriage certificates.
  • Current statements for bank, brokerage and retirement accounts. These will help determine the value of many assets.
  • Car titles.
  • Passports.
  • Passwords and user names.
  • Mortgage or deed documents. 

2. Assemble a financial support team.

This group might include an accountant, an attorney, your financial representative, and a trusted friend or family member who has good financial skills.

Schedule appointments with each member of your team. You'll need to discuss the estate with an experienced attorney. If no estate plan was in place, your attorney can talk to you about next steps.

3. Assess your cash flow.

If your spouse just passed away, your financial situation will certainly be impacted. First, make a list of income sources. Then list fixed and discretionary expenses.

Consider how both your income and expenses might change in the coming months. Expenses may decline, but if both spouses were drawing retirement income, Social Security income will be reduced as well.

Be sure to continue to pay bills on time to avoid late fees. If you're struggling to meet financial obligations, reach out to your financial support team and stay in contact with lenders, creditors and insurers.

4. Cancel or transfer accounts, memberships & subscriptions.

  • Cancel credit cards and stop automatic payments. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel the deceased's driver's license, to help prevent identify theft. Cancel or transfer memberships to organizations, health clubs and any monthly subscriptions.      

5. Notify financial institutions, government agencies & others.

  • Health, life and auto insurance: Be sure to have any premium payments stopped, and request payments to beneficiaries.
  • Social Security Administration: Surviving spouses are usually entitled to a one-time payment of $255 toward funeral expenses. Do not cash any Social Security checks dated after the day your loved one died. Be sure to inquire about any survivor benefits.
  • Banks and credit unions.
  • Retirement plan administrator, if retired.
  • Veterans Affairs, if your loved one was a veteran.
  • Social media accounts: Family members may choose to memorialize or close an account upon proper documentation. 

If possible, wait at least one year before making any major decisions such as selling your house, changing jobs or making a large purchase. Give yourself time to process your emotions and avoid making decisions in haste.

Work through this list a little at a time. It may take much longer than you expected to schedule appointments, fill out forms and make decisions. Know that your Thrivent Financial representative is available to provide financial guidance during this difficult time.  

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