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The Financial Mess After a Spouse's Death

Updated on February 2, 2013

The death of a loved one is bad. But, dealing with their numerous financial accounts causes mayhem. The privacy laws all work nicely while they are alive, yet, many times, upon death, it seems there is one issue or roadblock after another as the surviving spouse tries to access them. Even getting into their email or Facebook accounts seems to take an act of God.

Having a Will in place or an estate prepared will do little much of the time. But, there are several things you can do to make this issue a non-issue while the spouse is alive:

  1. Be sure you retain access to accounts before removing a late spouse's name from them.
  2. Make sure both spouses names are on ALL assets, including real estate and stock certificates. With real estate, just use a Quit Claim Deed and set up a Joint Tenancy with right of Survivorship.
  3. Make sure you know the user names, passwords and other online account access data of the other spouse and keep them in a secret spot.
  4. Avoid rolling over the deceased spouse's IRA into your own if you are under 59.
  5. Be careful about moving the deceased account into your own account, sometimes the bank will delete the joint account.
  6. Be patient. It takes a lot of time to deal with the accounts of a deceased person. Make copies of the Death Certificate to show as proof.
  7. Create a social media Will, which is like a regular Will, except dealing with online accounts.

While married couples have problems when the other half dies, the problems are really exacerbated when the spouses are separated or divorced, for the kids. The ex-spouse or their children must try to deal with the financial or online social media accounts in the same manner.


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