The Informed Investor

Financial Checklist for Recent Widow(er)s & Divorcees


April 5, 2023

Although divorce and the death of a spouse are vastly different events in one’s life, they’re both profoundly difficult to deal with. Even if it’s expected, there’s no way to truly be prepared for the ramifications. Before you have time to process what happened, you’re faced with a litany of financial decisions.

No matter the situation, being on your own can take its toll. To help you navigate this challenging landscape, here is a checklist of the most essential steps you should take as a recent widow(er) or divorcee:

Know Who to Call

Whether you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one or divorce proceedings, the first thing you’ll want to do is get in contact with the proper professionals, including:

Legal counsel: An attorney can help you understand the legal processes and considerations around divorce and death.

Financial advisor: Your financial advisor can guide you through the changes and planning that take place after a marriage has ended.

Social Security Administration:

After the death of a spouse, you may be entitled to survivor benefits. Social Security should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online. In most cases, the funeral home will report the person’s death to Social Security. You should give the funeral home the deceased person’s Social Security number if you want them to make the report.

If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a representative between 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your local Social Security office.

Insurance companies: Notify all of your insurance providers and request claim forms to receive potential benefits.  In the case of a divorce, update your beneficiaries  if you want to remove your former spouse or designate new beneficiaries. Be sure to do this with any 401(k), IRA or investment accounts you have.