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The Impact of Losing a Spouse: Navigating Finances After Wrongful Death

The Impact of Losing a Spouse: Navigating Finances After Wrongful Death

Losing a spouse is an incredibly difficult and life-altering experience on its own. However, it also often comes with significant financial challenges that the surviving spouse must face during an already tumultuous time. Navigating finances after the wrongful death of a partner can feel daunting, but there are steps one can take to stabilize financially and set themselves up for success in this next chapter of life.

Taking Stock of Accounts and Assets

After the death of a spouse, one of the first things the survivor must do is take full account of existing assets, debts, insurance policies, accounts, and plans. This includes things like:

  • Bank accounts – savings, checking, Certificates of Deposit, etc.
  • Investment accounts – stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, annuities
  • Life insurance policies
  • Mortgages and loans – mortgage, auto loans, student loans, medical debt
  • Credit cards – individual, shared, authorized user accounts
  • Benefits – social security, pension plans

Documenting all accounts, balances, debts, income sources, and policies provides clarity into what existing financial resources are available and which debts need to be resolved. Having organized records also streamlines navigating things like name changes on accounts, accessing life insurance payouts, and more.

Analyzing Income Changes

The death of a spouse often significantly alters household income. After examining assets, the surviving spouse should analyze how losing their partner’s salary, benefits packages, social security entitlements, or other income streams will impact monthly budgets going forward.

Some questions to consider:

  • What income sources have been lost with the passing of my spouse? How much monthly income do those represent?
  • How will losing my spouse’s income impact my ability to meet regular living expenses or pay off existing debts?
  • What benefits or entitlements may I be newly eligible for? How do I access those?
  • Do I need to immediately change spending behaviors to adjust to income loss?

While income losses can be substantial, some new benefit options may become accessible, including social security survivor benefits, veteran survivor pensions, and life insurance payouts. Identifying these and determining optimal ways to replace as much income as possible is key.

Revisiting Budget Planning

With accounts clarified and income evolutions identified, revising household budgeting is essential. Losing income requires careful spending alignment to new means. If debts also need repayment, budgets may need to be stringent for a time.

Some things to address in revised budget planning:

  • Evaluate recurring living costs – housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, childcare, subscriptions, etc. Align spending with income as much as possible.
  • Determine which debts carry the highest interest rates and focus on paying those down first.
  • Consult financial advisors about the best use of new liquid assets from life insurance if applicable. Consider conservative investments over high-risk options or overspending.
  • Analyze primary goals before allocating any windfalls. What does life look like going forward? What costs may come up relating to children, education goals, your retirement planning?

The reality is budgets will tighten for most experiencing the wrongful death loss of a spouse. Setting realistic spending aligned to new means helps families maintain financial integrity. Leveraging financial guidance to maximize assets can provide some comfort during difficult transitions.

Filing for Benefits

A next essential step is filing for any and all benefits now available to the surviving spouse and family:

  • Social Security – Widows and widowers are entitled to claim 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits if those are higher than their own. Knowing when to claim is important.
  • Life Insurance – File payout claims rapidly after confirmed death. Most policies pay in full in a matter of weeks.
  • Veteran Benefits – If applicable, Veterans Affairs provides multiple survivor benefit programs including pensions, education support for dependents, healthcare, and guaranteed home loans. Each program has different qualification criteria but are worth investigating.
  • Estate Entitlements – Assets designated to survivors in a will must go through probate to access. Legal guidance assists securing those.

Filing rapidly for any and all programs, benefits or assets now available allows families to recover financially during overwhelming personal loss.

Seek Legal Counsel About Wrongful Death Litigation

If a spouse died due to someone else’s negligence – such as medical malpractice, dangerous premises conditions, a vehicle accident, etc. – surviving family may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Successful litigation can provide financial resources to help survivors transition more smoothly in lieu of losing their loved one’s financial provision.

If you’re in need of advice or help regarding wrongful death litigation, contact us today.  You can visit one of our offices at:

  • 2005 West Main St. Tupelo, MS 38801
  • 406 Galleria Dr., Suite 7 Oxford, MS 38655
  • 1671 Lelia Dr., Suite B, Jackson, MS 39216
  • 5100 Poplar Ave., Suite 2700 Memphis, TN 38137

Or call us for a free consultation on (888) 484-1476.

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2005 West Main St. Tupelo, MS 38801


406 Galleria Dr., Suite 7 Oxford, MS 38655


1671 Lelia Dr Suite B, Jackson, MS 39216


5100 Poplar Ave., Suite 2700 Memphis, TN 38137


905 Main Street, Columbus MS 39701

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