Surviving Spouse - A Checkist

Surviving Spouse - A Checklist

•1. Within the electronic age, a key question relates to passwords. From charge and bank accounts to financial spreadsheets, passwords have become a key component to determine the location of assets and open a flow of income to the surviving spouse. Keep all passwords in a safe place and be sure your spouse knows where they are.

•2. Frequently, spouses keep their estate documents in a safe deposit box at a bank. Therefore, the ability to access the estate documents becomes critical. If the account was titled in the name of the deceased spouse, either a court order or a representative must access the box in search of the last will and testament.

•3. Determine whether both spouse's names are on all accounts, real property, and financial accounts (including, for example, stocks and bonds).

•4. Annually, sit down with your spouse for a state of the union report. Not only discuss the budgets and income, but consider the beneficiary of retirement plans and insurance policies.

•5. Before year-end make a list of all assets and liabilities, and keep the addresses and telephone numbers of financial, legal and insurance advisors in a convenient location.

•6. Do not rollover an IRA immediately after the death of a spouse. Rather, consult a qualified retirement consultant, such as a CPA, Financial Planner, or an Attorney, knowledgeable about retirement plans. Likewise, do not disclaim any assets from your spouse's estate until you have the benefit of discussing the matter with a professional.

•7. Consult a CPA to determine whether you should file a joint federal income tax return with your deceased spouse. Who will receive the refund? If you work and federal income tax is withheld from your account, consider whether a joint federal income tax return should be filed.

•8. Do not pay bills immediately after death. Are you liable for the debts of your deceased spouse? This requires the assistance of an attorney.

•9. Review all insurance policies, including health insurance coverage for yourself. Advise your late spouse's insurance company of his or her death. If your spouse was in the military, contact the Veterans' Administration to determine what benefits for which you or your spouse are eligible.

•10. Apply for any government death benefits, for example Social Security; estimate your expected monthly income and expenses; prepare a revised monthly budget; and be sure you have sufficient cash reserves on hand to meet your immediate current expenses.