You likely never thought the day would come when you would be forced to live a day without your spouse by your side. We are deeply sorry for your loss, and can’t fathom the pain and heartache you are experiencing at the moment. Losing a spouse is an incredibly difficult – possibly even traumatic – experience, and it’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions during this time.
Please know that it’s okay to grieve in your own way, and there is no right or wrong way to mourn your beloved. Lean on your loved ones for support and allow them to be there for you, hard as that may be. Dwell on the love you and your spouse shared and the beautiful memories you made together throughout your marriage. In time, the pain will begin to fade, and you will find ways to cherish and honor their memory.
You are not alone in this journey, and there are people who care about you and are willing to offer a comforting shoulder, including us here at Daly Law Offices. Your energy should be focused on your family and your healing right now, not stress-inducing legal matters. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of who to call or what to do, let us help.
Below, we’ve compiled a simple checklist of the first steps to take over the weeks following your spouse’s passing. After reviewing the list, if you’re still in need of professional assistance, we are more than willing to step in. Our compassionate lead attorney, Joshua N. Daly will meet with you in an initial consultation, at no cost to you, to discuss your immediate needs, then guide you through the legal complexities that must be handled. Call today to learn more about how we can make this difficult time just a little bit easier for you.
- Obtain several copies of the death certificate.
Nearly every step that follows, and every entity that must be dealt with, will require a copy of the death certificate, so it’s best to ask for around 12-15 copies from either the vital records office, or the funeral/mortuary director who prepares your spouse for eternal rest.
- Inform family members of your spouse’s passing.
While some people choose to make individual phone calls to loved ones, others may find it too difficult to explain their spouse’s death so many times. It is perfectly acceptable to send text messages, emails, or letters in the mail, and ask the recipients to spread the message, as well. If you frequent social media platforms like Facebook, you could also inform people there once your immediate family and friends have been informed and have had time to tell others. Don’t forget to also reach out to your spouse’s employer (if they were still working) to inquire about death benefits and how pensions are handled for surviving spouses.
- Plan funeral, burial, or cremation services according to your spouse’s wishes.
You likely had a conversation with your spouse about their wishes for a funeral or burial at least a few times over the course of your marriage. Hopefully, they left instruction behind in their will or other estate planning documents like a letter of instruction. If they left behind no estate plan, however, it might be productive to call a family meeting with your spouse’s immediate relatives (such as children and siblings) to discuss what the funeral or memorial service should look like, what they would have wanted, what the family wants, and what can actually be afforded.
When making arrangements, remember:
- If there was no prepaid burial plan, you’ll need to choose the funeral home yourself and decide on other specifics such as where the service will be, whether cremation will take place, which cemetery they will rest in or where the ashes will be interred, what type of tombstone or urn to use, and more. Be sure to conduct plenty of research, especially on funeral homes, as they may be able to assist you with many of the other aspects surrounding the service.
- If your spouse served in the military or belonged to a social group that was an important part of their life, contact the Veterans Administration office or the organization to inquire about burial benefits or funeral services.
- Ask loved ones, relatives, and close friends to help you with the many related tasks, such as composing the obituary, serving as pallbearers, delivering eulogies, keeping a list of attendees, writing thank-you notes, and arranging post-funeral gatherings.
- Contact the Social Security Administration office to report your spouse’s death.
Some funeral providers will take care of this step for you, but you should still make your own call to verify that it gets done. This step is critical to ensure that any government benefits your spouse was receiving will end and you won’t be forced to pay them back later. You may also be eligible to receive a death benefit of $225.
- Call life insurance providers and begin the claim process.
Many people need these funds to cover funeral expenses and it can take several days or even weeks to receive your payout, so it’s essential that you start the process as soon as possible. Depending on the coverage, you may need to contact a few providers to make claims for different policies such as burial or funeral insurance, term life insurance or whole life insurance, or health insurance.
- Locate the will (if there was one) and contact the executor of your spouse’s estate (if it’s not you).
The will discloses who the executor (or administrator) of your spouse’s estate is, who may or may not be you. Either way, this will need to be certified in writing in order to settle the estate. You and your spouse likely jointly owned most of your assets, but the will should lay out how funds, property, and belongings they solely owned should be distributed. If there was no will or trust, the estate may need to go through probate – a time-consuming and expensive court process. A skilled probate attorney will be the best option for getting through it smoothly.
- Contact your estate planning attorney and update your own estate plan.
An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you through most of the legal heavy lifting following your spouse’s death, so it’s imperative to consult with them early on and let them navigate you through the necessary steps that need to be taken. You will also need to update your existing estate plan to reflect the fact that your spouse is no longer living.
- Heal and work through your grief.
Everyone grieves in their own way, and heals in their own time; there is no right or wrong way to work through your emotions. While you should definitely attend to your emotional health, you shouldn’t neglect your physical health. Stress from dealing with a death and experiencing an immense amount of grief can make you physically ill, so remember to eat well, exercise, sleep, and try to get back to your typical routine as best you can. Let your family and friends keep you company if they offer, and remember that they are grieving, too.
Daly Law Offices Is Here For You
Contact us today and let us support you in this difficult time. We offer free consultations and the dedicated, personalized attention of a small firm. Our lead attorney, Joshua N. Daly, has 15 years of experience and is committed to serving all clients with compassion and understanding. Call today and get the support you need.