What to do after you lose your spouse? Hopefully, this article will help with the financial steps that need to be undertaken in this confusing time. Below are the main first financial steps that need to be completed.
When your spouse dies, it can be traumatic. First off, you need to allow yourself time to grieve. Yet, there are important financial steps that are best to make sooner than later. Often is the case that you are your spouse’s will administrator. It is my hope that this list of essential to do items will assist you in handling the main financial items that are needed to be done sooner than later.
1. Rely on your team members
Please don’t do it alone. Call your Financial Planner. This is the time that family, friends, and trusted advisors can help you with many of the financial tasks. Ultimately, as widow or widower, it is your responsibility to finalize the final details. Yet, your financial planner or advisor will help you with understanding many of the financial aspects needed to settle your spouse’s affairs. You may also need a lawyer, and an accountant to file final returns. If you do not have a trusted advisor, professional organizations can assist you to find someone to help. Such professional organizations are the Financial Planning Standards Council, Chartered Professional Accountants, and the Canadian Law Societies.
2. Arrange the Funeral & Obtain Death Certificates
The first thing normally done is to finalize arrangements with the funeral director, to confirm final arrangements. Is there a final will that will assist you to know what your spouse’s final wishes were? You will need to select the arrangements such as burial or cremation, and select flowers and other details (or alternate donation suggestion) and extend invitations to family and friends. Normally, funeral directors are very helpful and will assign for you a person that will walk you through many of the details. Normally funeral homes will know this already and provide you with a few death certificates. Be sure to obtain many original copies of the death certificate, as most financial and other institutions require originals. If you later need more death certificates, you can order more; here is a helpful link
3. Apply for government benefits
There are a number of government benefits that may be applicable, including:
The Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit will pay a lump-sum death benefit that you may be eligible for, provided your spouse paid CPP premiums in the past. This benefit provides a one-time payment to (or on behalf of) the estate of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
Allowance for the Survivor provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to low-income widowed spouses who are not yet eligible for the Old Age Security pension.
Canada Pension Plan Survivor’s pension offers a monthly pension paid to the survivors of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
International benefits provides survivor benefits to eligible individuals who have lived or worked in another country.
Canada Pension Plan Children’s benefit is a monthly benefit for dependent children (under age 18 or between 18 and 25 and attending school) of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
Veterans Affairs Canada – Death Benefit provides a lump sum when a Canadian Forces member dies in the line of duty.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada – Decedent Estates Program manages the estate of a deceased First Nation individual who lived on a reserve before their death.
Be sure to officially notify both Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) of your spouse’s death, so as to avoid any overpayments.
4. Notify current and past employers
if your spouse was employed, there are likely many people that will wish to be notified, for personal reasons. Contact your spouse’s immediate supervisor and human resources department. You may be eligible for group life, accident, disability, or other insurance benefits, depending on the cause of death. If your spouse worked for a large corporation, there is often different departments dealing with different types of insurance. In addition, there may be a pension plan in place, that can be transferred to your name, either as a lump sum or as annuity payments. For the same reasons, contact previous employers.
5. Complete life insurance claim forms
Contact your insurance advisor, and complete the needed forms to claim life insurance proceeds. You will normally need to provide a death certificate, an original or certified true copy of the will, and often other documentation.
6. Complete investment and banking financial forms
Your financial advisor can assist you in the process of properly transferring registered investment assets to your name, and revise name ownership on joint assets. Joint accounts will remain accessible. Bank accounts not in your name can be accessed up to a small amounts immediately so as to provide for funeral expenses, if needed. Accounts not in joint name normally are not accessible until after tax filings are completed and official probate is finalized, which often can be up to one year or even longer depending on the complexity of the estate. You may need to open an estate bank account if other beneficiaries are present in the will.
7. Close unnecessary accounts
You may wish to keep one bank account open for the purpose of receiving often surprise cheques in your spouse’s name. But all other accounts should be closed, to avoid any risk of fraud. Close all credit cards and loan accounts. Ensure any joint accounts are adjusted to reflect solely your name, including utility and other service accounts. Provincial health insurance coverage must be canceled. Government offices need be advised pertaining to social insurance numbers and passport. Your spouse’s drivers license must be returned along with a copy of the death certificate.
8. Cancel personal identification
This is the time, unfortunately, that fraud is high. Please take the necessary steps to cancel all personal identification.
Find out how to cancel your spouse`s Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and tax-related payments.
Cancel personal identification includingPassports, Resident`s card, and other identification.
Cancel your spouse`s Social Insurance Number to avoid risk.
9. Revise your will and power of attorney documents
Contact your lawyer to update your will and power of attorney documents. You may need new documents. This often requires careful thought but do not delay in making an appointment.
10. Review real estate and other holdings
If you owned your home jointly, you will need to notify the land titles department in your area to determine if you need to remove your spouse`s name. Legal advice may be necessary to ensure that all aspects are considered. Do not rush to sell your home or move. Often it takes a year or more to adjust and carefully consider options. You will also need to contact any mortgage companies and review any rental agreements.
11. Do not make any quick moves, especially financial
Know that at this time you are vulnerable to fraud experts. Say No to everything that concerns your finances, until you are ready. You may receive phone calls. Do not give out any personal information out on the phone, ask for their name and phone number and call them direct to confirm that their call is legitimate. This also concerns family, friends, and any new love interests. Simply say you need more time. If you do enter into another love relationship, take your time and always arrange for a written living together agreement for clarity, and to protect yourself and heirs.
12. Above all, take the necessary time to grieve.
There is no right or wrong way, we all do this differently. Lean on support systems available to you including friends and family. You will move through this, and like all challenges, you will prevail.