First steps

First steps — Take an Organized Approach


First steps — Take an Organized Approach

It is probably no surprise that the death of a life partner ranks as the number one stress factor on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale.* This type of experience can negatively affect the health of the surviving partner, so if you have suffered such a loss, it is important that you do all you can to take care of yourself. An organized approach to information gathering and next steps may help reduce your stress. (Much of this information can also prove useful if you are responsible for helping in any situation where someone has died.) These simple tips can help you get organized.

Review your financial accounts, pensions and Social Security to determine how you may be affected.

Where to begin

The first step is to obtain several certified copies of the death certificate. Various sources recommend you get at least a dozen, since many companies and government agencies are going to need one to make account changes and process claims. Getting an ample supply up front will save you time and frustration later.

Whom do you contact?

A wide array of organizations will need to be informed of your partner’s passing. In some cases it will be to clarify tax information, in others to file claims and still others to cancel accounts or let them know not to expect to do business with the deceased any more.

Among these groups are:

  • Government agencies
  • Finance, insurance and any companies where the person had accounts
  • Credit reporting bureaus
  • Private and philanthropic organizations

Review this more comprehensive checklist for more details. You may find it useful to download, print and fill out the checklist. It may help you stay organized during this difficult time.

What about you?

Depending on your legal relationship to the deceased, you may be entitled to benefits. It may also be the case that the benefits you were receiving as a couple will change now that your partner is gone. It is important that you review your financial accounts, pensions and Social Security to determine how you may be affected. Your financial advisor, tax advisor or accountant may be a good resource to help you with this part of the process.

Ask for help

Finally, don’t be afraid to delegate some of the legwork to a trusted friend or family member. You have a lot to manage during a very difficult time. Often, people want to assist you but don’t know how. They may be waiting for you to give them ways to lighten your load. In some cases, you may be doing them a service by accepting help. It might allow them to process the loss, because by helping you, they might feel there are also honoring the person who passed away.

*Holmes and Rahe stress scale (1967) Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a questionnaire called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) for identifying major stressful life events.