What Happens If My Spouse Dies?

At Letterio & Haug, LLP, we want to begin this blog by telling you how deeply sorry we are for your loss. We know how difficult this time can be, which is why we want to help you with the next steps.

If your spouse dies, take as much time as you need to grieve and be with loved ones. Some tasks are more urgent than others, so get those out of the way first. Then, you can start dealing with the legal and financial implications of your spouse’s death.

Get a Legal Pronouncement of Death

If your spouse dies at a medical facility, the professionals there will declare the time of death. Otherwise, you will need to call 911 to get paramedics to the scene. The paramedics will do everything they can (unless your spouse had a do not resuscitate order) and declare the death.

The paramedics may order an autopsy and remove the body, but if they do not, you will need to call the funeral home, crematorium, or mortuary you wish to work with, so they can transport the body to their facility. If your spouse is an organ donor, the paramedics or funeral home can help you arrange the donation.

Tell People About the Death

Dealing with your spouse’s death is deeply traumatic, so you can take a few days once the most pressing matters are dealt with. After a few days, however, you will need to tell people about your spouse’s passing (if you haven’t already).

Start by calling those closest to your spouse, as well as your closest friends and family members. Your loved ones will not only offer condolences and support but also help inform others of your spouse’s death.

Other parties you may need to contact include:

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) – you will have to return any Social Security benefits your spouse receives, but you can apply for survivor’s benefits.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – this is only applicable if your spouse was an active or retired military member. The VA issues funeral and burial benefits to all active or honorably discharged veterans.
  • Your spouse’s employer – inform the company of the death and gather information about your spouse’s final paycheck, life insurance, and other benefits.
  • Your employer – let your employer know what happened and tell them you need some time off.
  • Your children’s school – if you have school-aged children, let the school know they may miss some classes, arrange for their assignments to be postponed or canceled, and ask about grief-counseling resources.
  • Your spouse’s life insurance providers – the sooner you make a claim, the sooner you can get the funds you need for your spouse’s end-of-life expenses.

You may also need to notify your spouse’s community by writing a social media post and/or putting an obituary in the local newspaper. If you do not want to do these things, ask your loved ones for help.

Review Your Spouse’s Final Wishes

Make sure to contact your family attorney within 10 days of your spouse’s death. Your attorney should help you locate your spouse’s will, review it, and settle your spouse’s estate.

Most of the time, you will be named as your spouse’s personal representative and be responsible for distributing their property according to their wishes. If you are not the personal representative, your attorney can help you locate them.

If your spouse did not have a will, your attorney will help you become the personal representative and make it through intestate probate. As the surviving spouse, you should be entitled to the estate in its entirety. The court will assume that all property was community property, and you will be entitled to it unless someone objects.

As a spouse, you have special rights and responsibilities when it comes to your loved one’s death. Our team at Letterio & Haug, LLP is here to help you navigate them. We provide personalized and proficient representation to make things easier for you, and we put nearly 2 decades of combined legal experience on your side.

Do not face this difficult time alone. Instead, call us at (845) 203-0997 or contact us online for the legal help you need.

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