One of the most challenging moments in the lives of many people are the days and weeks following the loss of a loved one. If you find yourself in such a situation, it helps to understand what tasks you must achieve. This article reviews some of the most important things that a person must remember to do after their spouse passes away. Before taking any of these steps, however, you should make sure to collect financial records, bank accounts, tax returns, insurance policies, mortgages, debts, and other statements. 

Close Bank Accounts When the Time is Right

Some people postpone closing a bank account that is only titled in a deceased individual’s name. If you close a bank account that is receiving Social Security too soon, payments for the month of death might be reversed and lead to a negative balance. 

Contact Your Spouse’s Life Insurance Carrier

Before making a call to the company that holds your spouse’s life insurance, you should make sure that you have all of the necessary documents in order. You should also understand what benefit options are available because there is frequently more than one way that a surviving spouse can claim a life insurance benefit. 


Avoid the assumption that because you are the closest living relative of the deceased individual that you bear the responsibility for paying the deceased person’s bills. Specific Oklahoma laws address how bills are paid in these situations. If you are navigating an insolvent estate, remember that Oklahoma laws address the order of distribution in which debts should be paid. 

Understand How Social Security Benefits Work

The Social Security Administration should be notified as soon as possible when a spouse passes away. A person, however, cannot apply for survivors benefits nor report a death online. Many people also have questions about how Social Security benefits pass when a spouse passes away.  If your spouse passes away and the individual’s Social Security number was higher than yours, you can expect to receive the same monthly benefit that your spouse would have received. If your Social Security benefit is higher, your benefit will remain the same. In either situation, remember that you will only receive one benefit. 

Determine What Will Pass Through Probate

The probate process in Oklahoma involves an executor recording a will on the public record so an estate can be established. If assets you shared with a spouse were jointly titled and you were the named beneficiary of a retirement account, you might not need to proceed through probate. If your spouse passed away without a will, deciding how your loved one’s assets will be distributed will likely require you to proceed to court. 

Speak with a Compassionate Estate Planning Attorney

The best time to write an estate plan is long before you begin to experience any end-of-life health issues or mental incapacity. To make sure that you have the best estate plan possible, it can help to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.