Health and Beauty

Here are 19 things you need to do (that I did) when your spouse dies.

As many of you know, I just lost my wonderful husband. Even though I’m grieving, I learned so much from this ordeal. I learned my husband was incredibly loved, that I have a wonderful support system (including you, THANK YOU) and I’m stronger than I thought I was.

There are also many important steps we must take after a spouse dies. If you ever have to go through this nightmare or you want to prepare for when it happens (because we all die) here is what I need you to do…

1. Lean on your support system. You’ll need them now more than ever for advice, protection and a shoulder to cry on.

2. Find all of your legal documents. This includes birth certificates, social security cards, a DD214 if they were in the military; insurance policies, etc. (Please put them in a safe place so that everyone knows where everything is.)

3. Contact your spouse’s creditors. Some credit card/loan companies have insurance to cover your loved ones debt if they die. We all die so ask your creditors if you can sign up for it and take it. You don’t want you or your loved ones to have the added burden of debt after a spouse’s death.

4. Contact your spouse’s bank to have the funds transferred over to you, if you don’t have a joint account. If your spouse has a debt with the bank, the bank can seize your spouse’s assets to clear up the debt. If they have a debt, contact an attorney before informing the bank. One more thing! Make sure your spouse lists you as the beneficiary on their accounts. If they haven’t, do it NOW.  My hubby had his account before he married me.  I am lucky. Some people aren’t when it comes to death and money. If you aren’t the beneficiary, his other family may contest it. To protect you and your spouse, have them change it.

5. Create a budget to track spending and stick to it. Include bills and money coming in.

6. Find out what bills were paid, what bills are due and pay them. This includes car notes, insurance payments, utility bills, etc. I’ve just had to pay tons of bills including part of my husband’s funeral costs.

7. Cancel your spouse’s drivers license to prevent ID fraud. There are vultures out there. To prevent being a victim of identity theft, contact your state licensing agency.

8. Contact your spouse’s employer and old employers for insurance policies, pensions and 401ks to begin the beneficiary process. When you contact your job’s HR department, ask how long you will keep your spouse’s healthcare. Also ask about their last paycheck and ask how you can begin the claim process. You will also get access to their retirement, if they have one.  (We all die so get a will, GET LIFE INSURANCE and save for retirement!)

9. If your spouse is an organ donor like mine was, make sure you understand what it means. You don’t have to do it. If you do, I applaud you. Get the representative of the donor organization explain in full detail what they are taking and the condition your spouse will be left in. I had a witness (his mom) in the room with me.

10. When we picked out a funeral home we asked for recommendations from family members. Ask around! Our family made an excellent choice. We went with a Black owned funeral home that did a spectacular job. When meeting with the funeral director they will ask you if you want a full funeral with burial, cremation with or without a service, etc.  Funerals are expensive.  Here is a tip. Let them know up front you only have a set amount of money to pay for the funeral. I negotiated prices with the funeral home. You can too. Stick to your budget and don’t spend more than you can. Some relatives will pressure you to spend more, but they aren’t paying for the funeral services. You are! Lovingly ignore them. I’ve had relatives who spent in the five-figure range for another relative’s funeral. Don’t do it!

11. Once you’ve set the dates with the funeral home for your spouse’s service and  set up the burial:

  • Contact the place of service if it is not at the funeral home.
  • Contact the funeral participants and confirm their attendance.
  • Create a program. You can have the funeral home design it or you can design it yourself. If you do design it, you will save hundreds of dollars. That’s what I did. I am self-taught in Photoshop, Indesign, etc.  I made the program just the way my hubby would want it. You can also get pre-made pamphlets designs. All I paid for was the printing. The funeral home will charge you for the number of pages printed in each program.
  • Ask yourself will there be a repass? If so, are you using a caterer? If you need to save money, let family cook or have everyone bring a dish.  Do what works for you.
  • Get the word out about the funeral and burial date and time. Since my hubby was young and his friends were online, I used social media using images expressing the date and time of his funeral. If the person is older go where your spouse’s friends are.

12. Next you will have to pick out an outfit for your spouse. Some funeral homes will sell you one. My hubby was a straight suit and tie guy so I supplied them with a white tee-shirt, black socks, a complete suit, underwear and tie. After dressing your spouse they will ask you to view your spouse before the funeral. Please have someone there with you when you do this. I had my mother-in-law, my sister and my brother-in-law there. It is incredibly jarring to see your loved one in a casket. I will be honest. It broke my heart because I had to face the realization my husband wasn’t coming back. I miss him so much.

13. Once the funeral is over, get multiple death certificates from the funeral home.  You need this document for #3 and #8 during the claim process.

14. Don’t forget to send out thank you cards. This is simple etiquette. I’m doing mine now. Some funeral homes offer them for free. Use them.

15. Go to to see what government benefits you are and your children (if you have any) are entitled to after a spouse dies. Make sure you have your family’s social security numbers, birth certificates and your proof of your marriage. You’ll need them to go through with federal survivor benefits.

16. Ignore the pressure to give away your spouse’s items before you are ready. My hubby died a few days ago and I still haven’t moved his stuff. Yes, people have asked for his things, but I told them to wait.

17. Get a lawyer if you need one. They are there to protect you.

18. Grieve in your own way and seek counseling. My kids and I start counseling next month. Do it.

19. Finally live your life. Life is so short. If something or someone isn’t making you happy change your situation. We take life for granted when it is really a precious gift.

These past few weeks have been the hardest in my life. There are days when I’m too tired to do anything and there are nights where all I want to do is cry. I know things will get better.

Let me tell you about my sons! Wow! Just wow! They’ve been amazing. I am so grateful for them. They’re stronger and persevering more than I thought. I’m so impressed with them. They ask me if I’m OK. Y’all, they got that from their dad.

Let me be real. I’m lucky my husband’s family is wonderful. Sadly, some families, especially when it comes to death and money aren’t. You don’t have to take my advice, but do what works for you. I must demand once again that you surround yourself with people who have YOUR interests at heart and I implore you think before taking any action.

I’m not done yet. I have one more thing to tell you. People will probably get mad at me, but I want you to focus on the one word I used throughout this post. What was the one word I used over and over? The word was spouse. Now just imagine if I was just a girlfriend after 14 years of co-habitating?  I wouldn’t have been able to make the medical decisions or even have access to his room before he died. I wouldn’t have had access to our car or even have a legal right to stay in our home. I wouldn’t have had a legal say in his funeral arrangements.  I’d be at the mercy of his family. Luckily they aren’t like that, however, like I said before, some people are. Just imagine. I’d be in probate for my sons’ inheritance. That can take months and even years depending upon who contests it. Who wins? The lawyers! So before people say marriage is just a piece of paper, I’m proof that is so much more. Look, marriage ain’t for everyone but it’s easier when you are dealing with the passing of a spouse.

Please consider protecting your family and yourself. Get insurance and a will, keep your documents in a secure place and make sure your beneficiary information is up to date.  Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, prayers and support. I love you so much!!!

The only limit you have is the one you have is the one you have placed on yourself. Think and be limitless.

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  1. Saundra Davis 16 May, 2016 at 21:12 Reply

    Love and light to you during this time dear one. I applaud you for reaching deep into your reservoir to offer your wisdom and experience to others by posting this blog; I do want to comment on a few of the details:.

    #2 – do this ahead of time. Create a space/file for all of your important documents for EVERYONE in your family, including your parents (they may need your support). Have a hard copy and an electronic version that is maintained in a cloud account.

    #3 – contact the creditors to CLOSE accounts. Unless you are in a community property state or have shared credit accounts, separate accounts do not usually transfer to the spouse. The surviving spouse must pay the debts from the estate of the deceased and if there is no estate, there is no recovery. Think carefully about spending money on credit insurance and be sure you understand before you pay for it. If you are single, your debt doesn’t pass to your next of kin. The credit card companies may try to trick you into assuming the debts of another but under the law, you are NOT liable for the debts of a spouse (note the community property state issue).

    #4 – In addition to designating a beneficiary, you can put a “Transfer on Death” or “Pay on Death” on your checking and savings accounts. This action avoids the will and therefore probate (if probate is required). Beneficiary designations are CRUCIAL for retirement and investment accounts. Do it now, check it every time your life changes. Excellent free forms at

    #5 – Financial changes are devastating during times of transition (death, birth, moving, job changes) and having a saving and spending plan (budget) can make the transitions smoother. Understand the difference between your “living expenses” and your “lifestyle expenses” and get help with budgeting if you don’t know where to start. Many non-profit agencies offer free services that are NOT attached to product sales. Start with groups near you, or check out for unbiased help.

    #6 – see #5 – if there isn’t enough to go around pay your living expenses (rent/mortgage and utilities), your food and health care, your car (if you need it for work) and your remaining necessities. Consumer debt (unsecured/credit card) is LAST in this situation. Don’t fall victim to their pressure tactics.

    #7 – also notify the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) to protect the credit file. Many thieves use the SSN of deceased people to obtain credit.

    #8 – Assess your life insurance needs before purchasing. Avoid buying based on fear. Who is depending on you for income if you pass away? What do you want to do about burial costs? Who will be your beneficiary?

    #9 – Make sure you and your loved ones have Advanced Health Care Directives (AHCD) to instruct the medical professions if you can’t speak for yourself. An AHCD will let people know what you want at your end of life. It will also indicate whom should make those decisions on your behalf.

    #10 – Amen. Going into debt for a funeral exacerbates the pain.

    #15 – There are usually some small burial insurance benefits as well if money is tight you may need to do this before the funeral. Most mortuaries know how to offer support.

    Final words: if you prefer to cohabitate rather than enter into a legal marriage each of the options above is available to you to offer protection.

    You and your partner can have:

    Advanced health care directives (AHCD) to allow each other to make your medical decisions and to provide end of life instructions.

    Durable Powers of Attorney will allow you to make financial decisions.

    Beneficiary designations will bypass the operation of law and is not subject to the will of the decedent.

    Simple will (for small estates) that include guardianship arrangements for ALL children under the age of 18.

    Trust for real property to allow it to pass without the hassle of probate.

    Letters of instruction tell your designee what you want re: your funeral and distribution of your sentimental items.

    EACH and every one of these decisions should be made and written by every person over the age of 18.

    Transitions are challenging and doing these things when you are grieving is even harder.

    Take the time, do it now.

    Again my sister, love to you and your family.

  2. Bonnita Spikes 18 May, 2016 at 13:31 Reply

    My condolences to you and your family. My husband Michael was killed over 20 yrs. Ago. Sorely missed. I applaud your courageous spirit. My youngest14 at the time tried suicide stating I hurt to bad to live! I knew what he meant. However he is o.k. now.
    I applaude you and your sharing all of this vital information.
    God Bless & Comfort you and yours! Prayers to you and yours.

  3. Leola 18 May, 2016 at 17:08 Reply

    There are so many valuable lessons here that can be applied to managing any unexpected situation we may encounter in life (good and bad). I don’t have a husband, but I do have situations that your example of strength and wisdom can be applied to. Having a solid plan and foundation for the “just in case” is so crucial. Being aware and honest in regards to your needs and obligations is absolutely critical. Excellent advice! Thank you for taking the time to share what you’ve learned during all of this. It gives me directions and courage.Many blessings to you and your boys.

  4. Jacquie hodge 17 February, 2017 at 14:01 Reply

    I was very impressed and enlightened by your unselfish act of educating your Sisters! Sometimes we tend to put such things off until all of a sudden we face the inevidentiable. However, SISTAS we also have those, who are married in name only with unfinished business that catches up to us. Although, our spouses have moved on. Without, living wills or Advance directives, theses things too need addressed in advance. However, unorthodox this might sound, it can happen!

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