Recently widowed: what do I gotta do?

Not the happiest of threads, but it’s gotta be done. My thirty mumble husband died a few days ago. Any practical advice or tips needed. What do I have to do?

I have a vague sense that:

Credit cards
Social security
… ?

need to be somehow dealt with. I don’t have an official death certificate yet.

This is in Texas: anyone who would like to point me to state laws about shared debt etc. please do so. We had no children and owned no property.

Also: he was ill and wheelchair bound, so I have a lot of medical equipment. Is there some way I can donate all that? I’d like it to go to some good use.

This is the only part I know anything about. There are places called “Lending Closets” that loan medical equipment to people as needed - often affiliated with a church or senior living facility.

We got a bathtub bench from one while my wife was relearning to walk after a stroke. I don’t know what part of Texas you’re in, but I bet a local lending closet will accept a wheelchair, bathtub chair, and other things of that nature.

Of course, with all you’re dealing with, you may not consider this one your highest priority. It’ll be waiting if you want to put it off a while.

Good luck, and a wish for peace.

nm read wrong

When my father in law passed away earlier this year, the funeral home/cemetery arranged for the death certificate. Our counselor advised us to order a bunch of certified copies, I think we ordered 15. I understand your husband’s body is being donated, hopefully someone at the donation program can help you with getting the certificate taken care of.

As for the other things, you can make phone calls now regarding credit cards, bank accounts, etc. but you’ll most likely need certified copies of the death certificate to make things official.

[And I’m so sorry for your loss. I was just thinking about you and your husband recently (well I didn’t remember your name, I was just wondering about that Doper whose husband had been hospitalized for a long time). My husband has been hospitalized since 8/12 and was just transferred to a nursing home for rehab. I was so shocked and saddened to check the Dope and see your announcement.]

My sympathies, and sorrow for your loss.

If you could find an (inexpensive) attorney, they would be able to do all of this for you. Plus, they might know of some other agencies you should/need to contact as well.

You will need several original copies of the death certificate - but I can’t tell you how many as that depends on who will need them. However, I believe everyone who needs one will want an original, and not a photocopy.

Regarding wheel chair and other equipment - I know Goodwill takes them, but you might want to contact a hospice and see if they need anything - or have suggestions about some other place that could use the free donation.

You might also want to check to see if there are any insurance policies you might not even know about - often bank/credit cards offer a “free” life insurance with their cards - usually not a lot, but even if it is $1000 or so, it could help pay for the attorney.

It is a lot to go through right now, but I am sure there are many things you might forget or not know you need to do - let your car insurance company know, inform mortgage company, change utility bills to your name, inform the DMV and lots of other “little things” that will pop up That is why I would strongly suggest at least contacting some legal aid organization in your area and ask if there is someone who might have a checklist of sorts, or someone who could speak with you and go over the basics.

Just a simple thing like a Last Will - if there are any relatives who might be hovering around - will make things easier, but if not, there are basic laws protecting the surviving spouse.

Most people also suggest not doing anything drastic for at least a year - not suddenly selling the house, or selling the car, or moving to some other location, or whatever - that is a common first impulse, but one should wait for that first year before making any kind of major life changes after the death of a spouse.

The situation is very sad and I am thinking of you.

Not a practical suggestion, but an emotional one.

I wrote him a long letter every day for the first couple of months. Nothing deep, just the stuff I would’ve told him had he been there to talk to as well as lots of “I miss you” stuff.

I really felt it helped.

Texas is a community property state, so you don’t have any immediate worries. I will second the idea that you need many certified copies of the death certificate. If it’s not too late, you can get extras from the funeral home for a reasonable fee.

Some of that may be taken care of for you - the funeral home took care of social security for us. When doing your taxes this year, you’ll mark that he passed away. You can call the banks and credit cards - they may want a death certificate. By the way, expect every phone call you make to these people to be met with understanding and sympathy - when I did it for my brother in law, we seldom got the run around, almost all bent over backwards to help in the most pain free way they could.

Although I was not next of kin - it was my husband’s brother - I made most of the phone calls because it was too difficult for the immediate family. If you have that good friend who has been asking through this illness if they could help - these phone calls might be a good thing to ask him or her to handle for you.

I went through my brother in laws bills and bank accounts for about three months and compiled a list of payments he made. We didn’t miss much doing it that way.

And again, I am so sorry for your loss

Practically speaking, you can’t do anything major until this arrives. Get multiple certified copies (not photocopies) because many places will require those.

For starters, any mail received in his name that you don’t need, take a red sharpie and write “DECEASED” then mark the “return to sender” bit and stuff it back in the mailbox. After a few months, the volume of mail will greatly diminish. This advice came from my former mother in law, who holds a lot of experience in the field of bill collection. You want the rest of the world to know that this person is “no more” to briefly quote Monty Python, and let them do as much on their end as they will – getting their name off mailing lists will spare you much grief.

I don’t live in a community property state, so I had to probate my wife’s estate, and file a bunch of annoying paperwork to get her name removed from our mortgage. I’m assuming you will still have to probate?

A second vote on all this. Some of these will be annoying or messy (think paperwork, phone calls, etc) but the sooner they are over, the better!


If you have a friend that is a widow(er), perhaps you can ask their advice as to what steps to take.

Hugs to you. I have no experience with this kind of thing on any level, so I have no advice to give except for this: Do you have a Habitat ReStore in your area? If so, they may have a health care supplies division; our local one does. If they do, they will pick up anything they can use, and give you a tax receipt. Also, try Craigslist if you’d rather sell it.

I may be the only one, but when my mother died I was told to order a bunch of death certificates, I think I got 20 of them or so, I used all of 1 of them. I think the only one that wanted one was the bank. All of the other places, credit cards, electric, mortgage, and such just wanted a faxed copy.
I had only one problem with a credit card, and I don’t really know what happened. Most of them stopped all interest on the day she died. One of them for some reason tried to send me to collections for some reason.

Sorry you have to go through this, but you’ll get through it.

Sorry, but here, when my mother passed, we went through about 10 of the copies of the death certificate, for various union and labor affiliated accounts she had. I also kept a scanned-in copy on my thumbdrive, so I could present it in the cases where I didn’t have a physical one.

My advice:

Go through all the papers, and keep them organized. You’ll never know when you’ll need a receipt for something you thought was inconsequential.

Keep track of bank accounts, credit cards, trusts, retirement accounts, and accounts that might be held at previous jobs that you could have forgotten about.

Credit card companies are the worst things to deal with if there’s a balance on the card. If possible, pay off the card, then close it.

Obituaries are difficult to write. Keep it simple, and whatever you do, dont’ forget to mention any family members. Blood feuds start over things like this :).

Go through all the pockets of any clothing you may get rid of and/or donate. Sometimes people like to squirrel things away.

Above all, grief is uniquely personal to every person. There’s no specific way you’re supposed to do things, no specific way to act, and nothing you absolutely have to do. Do what you think is right.

Suggest you check out the forum here:

You will find lots of help and people who know exactly what you’re going though.

I am so sorry. :frowning: When my husband died, I could not function and I could not deal with the questions you’re asking. I had my tax preparer help me think through some things. I got 20 copies of the death certificate and used every one of them.

Don’t expect to feel anything but devastated for a very long time. For me it was a couple of years. Yeah. That long. Time is the only thing that helps.

With no children and no property, you might not have to do much of anything.

When my husband died (age 47), I contacted Social Security but that was just to claim the $255 death benefit. Since Johnny had recently filed a SSA Disability claim, tell them they can stop that process.

If you have any vehicles that are only in Johnny’s name, the DMV might want a death certificate so they can transfer the title to you. If they’re in both your names, you still might want to change the titles, in case you want to sell or trade them later.

The bank will want a death certificate to put your accounts in your name only. If you had any outstanding loans, ask if there was life insurance on the loans.

I didn’t have to do probate when my husband died. We had wills with each other as beneficiary. But with no property and no kids, even without a will, you might not need to go through probate. I’ll bet someone at Social Security or your bank might know the answer to that.

I donated my mom’s medical equipment to a local nursing home, and the cases of Ensure that I had for my husband went to the home health nurses.

Having just come from the tattoo thread, I would also advise that if you are thinking about any kind of memorial tattoo to not do this for at least FIVE YEARS.

Non-prescription dietary supplements may be donated to a food pantry, too.

^ Good advice. As we found when my dad passed recently, whether you have to have the will probated or not really depends on what you owned together. If he had a bank account in only his name, the bank may require a probated will before releasing the funds. Probate may be necessary prior to renewing your car tags if the loan is in both names. So sorry for your loss.

Can anyone explain in short easy words what that means please?

It means that in a marriage, all property owned is presumed to be owned by both partners jointly (unless there is a specific reason for that not to be the case). I’ve only ever heard it applied in divorce cases, but I presume that in this case it means most property that was owned by both of you, is now presumed to be owned solely by you without a lot of legal hassle required.

Titles would still to be updated, wouldn’t they? It can’t be done until she has the death certificate, but it does have to be done.