Monday, March 12, 2012

Money Matters for Widows

Tax time is only a month away, so everyone's talking about money. Here is some general information about finances to help you get started. Don't take it in place of legal or financial advice you'd recieve from professionals. And please do help by adding your own sense and experience. This is a crucial topic!

Before the funeral:
  • Find out your bank and your state policies about whether a joint account or your own account is best. Make sure you'll have access to cash and that it won't be tied up in escrow. Do not keep much cash on your person or in your house. Robbers read obituaries.
  • If folks want to set up a memorial fund for you, get some financial advice before you agree. If you will need money, then let's make sure your memorial fund doesn't all go to medical research or an untouchable kids' college fund. Also make sure you don't get stuck with a tax bill for it because you didn't plan ahead.
Gather the following papers that pertain to your individual situation, get a financial advisor and track down any benefits you're entitled to:
  • Death Certificate. You'll need multiple original copies, so purchase them all at once to have on hand.
  • Social Security numbers and birth certificates. Your's, your husband's and your childrens'. Birth certificates may be obtained from the County Board of Health office where the birth was registered.
  • Marriage license. If you can't find it, contact the County Clerk's office where it was issued.
  • The will. Hopefully you know where this is. If not, check your safe-deposit box at your bank, or check with your family lawyer.
  • Life-insurance policy. Contact your agent to file a claim. Also contact your husband's place of employment to file claims on his benefits that you're eligible for.
  • Mortgage insurance policy, or other loan insurance policies.
  • Accident insurance policy.
  • Auto insurance and auto registrations.
  • All credit-card accounts and credit-card protection policies.
  • Other debts, like mortgage on your home, car loans, payment plans.
  • Employee insurance policies for life, health or accidents.
  • A list of all previous employers. You may be entitled to payments.
  • Military documents.
  • Unions or professional organizations. Check the benefits you might be entitled to.
  • Tax-related documents.
  • Bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, trusts, retirement funds, etc.
Find the $$$
  • God promises to take care of you, but this is also an opportunity for you to develop perseverance. Also, begin to pray and ask God for wisdom and to show you favor as He leads you to a good place to work, as He did for the widow Ruth in Ruth 2.
  • Contact Social Security and/or other retirement plans, trusts, and IRA's and life insurance policies to file for benefits, depending on your status.
  • Contact your local church to discover available widows benevolence programs for your denomination and how you may apply, if needed.
  • Depending on your level of income, you might be eligible for government programs for housing, education or job training, utilities subsidy programs, WIC, Head Start, foodstamps, vaccinations or health care. Contact your local Human Services Dept. to find out eligibility and how to apply. Don't feel shy or shamed about this--you've paid taxes into these programs and the rest of us pay taxes into them to help people like you.
Found money: Besides finding money between sofa cushions, car seats, and the laundry, here are some websites you should check for lost money.
  • If you've moved around and certain properties or bank accounts were lost in the shuffle, check
  • They say the IRS has millions of dollars in unclaimed refunds. Might some belong to you? and use the "Where's My Refund?" tool.
  • US Savings Bonds. Do you have some that have been sitting in your sock drawer for years? Find out if they've matured yet at and then you may go cash them in at your bank or keep them around longer for a rainy day.
  • If banks you've used have gone out of business, you might still be able to save your money if they were FDIC insured.
Here's a link to Kiplinger's A To-Do List for The Surviving Spouse
What's the best advice about money that you've heard?
I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Warning: do NOT take your husband's retirement account (e.g. state pension) in a lump sum (no matter how badly you think you need it)! I knew they'd take 20% off the top; what I didn't know is that it counts as income when you do your next 1040 - when you're now in the "single" category! AND....they didn't deduct any state tax. So now I'm about to lose another 10% of it in the taxes I'll have to pay.

  2. Ouch, that's gotta hurt! I hope what you share will alert others and save them this added hardship. Thank you. Things are different from state to state, so widows need to verify for themselves what will happen to their estates. Don't depend on just one person. Find a trustworthy financial advisor.


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