Paperwork Challenges after a Spouse Dies Reduce the stress through proper financial planning

Paperwork Challenges after a Spouse Dies
Reduce the stress through proper financial planning

by A. Scott White, CFP®, ChFC, CLUv

When you’ve lost your spouse and you’re grieving, the last thing you want to think about is dealing with paperwork. Yet unfortunately, major financial issues and decisions arise when a spouse dies, and those must be handled.

One sure way to provide comfort and help ease the stress associated with a loss is proper financial planning long before it occurs. By consulting a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ ahead of time, you can alleviate much of the initial stress when a loved one dies. Your widowed partner can then focus on the grieving process, instead of worrying about finances.

Since either marriage partner could go first, both of you need to understand joint finances and create a plan to care for the survivor’s financial needs and help the survivor deal with the paperwork that comes with widowhood.

A CFP® can evaluate your current financial situation and help you minimize the paperwork the surviving spouse will face through proper planning.  This process can include:

  • Creating trusts to provide for the needs of the surviving spouse
  • Titling assets, including cars and bank accounts
  • Processing transfer-on-death beneficiaries
  • Transferring qualified retirement accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions
  • Ownership of vacation homes and other real estate

Whether both spouses are involved in the planning process, it is very important that both parties know where critical documents are kept and how to access them, as well as how to contact legal and tax experts. With just a few phone calls, these experts can start the probate process for the will, as well as begin transferring the assets per the estate plan and trust provisions.

Losing a loved one will never easy. But you can make it a little less stressful by planning for your financial needs ahead of time. Discussing the future with your spouse and a financial professional can lead to a process that will be make coping with the loss a bit easier.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.