Financial Considerations: Losing a Spouse

A spouse’s death can be one of life’s most devastating events. Complicating matters, at a time when a surviving spouse may feel as though they are unable to deal with life’s routines, many new tasks will arise. Seeking the support of others may be important, whether it be family members, trusted friends or even professionals.

Here are some financial steps that will need to be taken during this difficult time:

Take Care of Immediate Action Items

  • Make funeral arrangements or carry out pre-made arrangements; request multiple copies of the death certificate from the funeral home as these will be needed for various financial tasks.
  • Identify the estate executor and provide a copy of the will. Determine whether the support of a lawyer will be required.
  • Notify current/past employers regarding employee benefits (insurance, pension, vacation/sick pay owed).
  • Report the death to the Canada Revenue Agency to request benefits or to stop benefit payments (as these will otherwise need to be repaid).
  • Determine if any expenses are due and arrange payment to avoid late charges.

Organize Legal/Financial Documents

If this hasn’t been done, organize financial and legal information. This can help to ease the settlement of the estate. Financial accounts include bank/investments, credit cards, mortgages/other debt accounts and insurance policies (life, automobile, home, health). Legal documents include estate documents (wills, trusts), tax returns, birth/marriage certificates or divorce agreements. Digital assets should also be considered, such as websites or online accounts having monetary value.

Make Claims, Close/Update Accounts

Financial/legal institutions should be notified to make claims, change ownership or close accounts. Here are some considerations:

  • Joint accounts — Consider keeping a joint account open for up to a year, in the event that items are received under the deceased’s name.
  • Non-joint accounts — To claim non-jointly held assets that transfer through the will, the probate process must be completed.
  • Insurance — It generally takes around 30 days to receive a claim once the insurance company receives required documentation.
  • Other Accounts — Don’t forget to contact provincial bodies (driver’s license, health card), credit agencies, memberships and web-based accounts to prevent fraud.

File Final Tax Returns

Generally, the deceased’s final tax return is due by April 30th of the following year if the death occurred before Oct. 31. After Oct. 31, the return is due six months after the date of death. The surviving spouse’s tax return is due on the same date. Any balance owing by the survivor must be paid on or before April 30th of the year following the death.

Revise Your Financial Plan

Large financial decisions should not be made soon after a spouse’s death, if possible; take time to process the loss. Eventually, more thoughtful financial decisions can be made. A spouse’s death often results in financial changes, from current income and cash flow needs to future goals. As such, it may be important to revisit a financial plan.

Please remember that we are here to be a resource. During this difficult time, we hope that you will call on us to provide support.