Financial Checklist for Recent Widows and Divorcees

woman on the computer

Whether it’s expected or unexpected, becoming suddenly single adds in layers of complexity in different aspects of your life that can be overwhelming. At ARQ Wealth, we have been providing financial and wealth planning for our clients for decades and know how challenging these times can be for our clients.

In order to alleviate the stresses that come with this difficult time period of your life, we have put together a checklist for recent widows and divorcees to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the best next steps that you can take.

This article will cover strategic partners that can assist you, important documents for you to gather, different helpful contact numbers and resources, action steps you can take, and checklists to cover preparing for a divorce, what to do during a divorce, and finally steps taken after the divorce is finalized. These checklists will be broken down into two main sections – one involving recent widows and one involving those are dealing with a divorce.

Checklist for Widows

After the loss of a spouse, it’s important to lean on strategic partners to help get you and your family through this extremely difficult time. We recommend contacting and working with a grief counselor, family counselor, estate attorney (licensed in deceased state of residence), health and wellness specialists, tax advisors, and appraisers. It’s important to have the proper paperwork included below.

Step 1 – Important Documents to Locate:

  • Will/trust
  • Death certificate (make 10-20 copies), marriage certificate, deceased spouse’s birth certificate
  • Health insurance policy
  • Check all safe deposit boxes
  • Details of assets and debts (financial, physical)
    • Insurance policies, property deeds, financial accounts and statements, auto titles, retirement plans
  • Tax returns
  • Bills (mail and electronic, may need to check and review emails as well)
  • Important contacts, trusted advisors
  • Phone and devices that hold important documents and information
  • Research Social Security survivor benefits

After collecting and reviewing all these previously mentioned documents, it’s crucial to reach out to professionals/strategic partners to help walk you through the next steps. The following list of contacts is a good start:

Step 2 – Helpful Contacts to Start:

  • Social security office at 800-772-1213
    • It’s best to be ready with the Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and any dependent children
  • Your spouse’s employer
    • Request information about your spouse’s retirement plan and any other death benefits
  • Your spouse’s former employers
  • Your employer
  • Estate executor and estate attorney
  • Tax advisor
  • Financial advisor

Due to the complexities of Government benefits, different insurance plans, and retirement accounts, it’s common for overwhelmed spouses to overlook key assets and benefits that they have the right to collect. Instead of leaving it up to chance or relying on your own memory, you should contact all of the resources in this list and keep detailed records of the various information that they provide.

Step 3 – Action Steps to Take:

  • Remember to breathe
  • Cancel all credit cards in your spouse’s name
  • Review health care coverage, stop deceased spouse’s health insurance and continue coverage for yourself and your dependents
  • Change the registration on any bills in your spouse’s name, set to autopay
  • Update beneficiaries, tax withholdings, and other information
  • Close joint accounts
  • Create a new budget
  • Visualize the future, put one foot in front of the other

Being proactive and taking all of the action steps in this list helps guarantee that you won’t be paying any unnecessary bills, various bills that still are relevant won’t go unpaid, and that your paperwork will be all set when you meet with various strategic partners to go into more details about the tax, financial, and wealth planning aspects that will need to be handled following the sudden loss of your spouse.

At ARQ Wealth, we do all that we can for our clients to put their minds at ease in this challenging time of their lives. If you are looking for a strategic partner to help analyze your financial and wealth situation following the loss of a loved one, you can visit our website here or give us a call at (480) 214-9572.

Checklist for Divorcees

Preparing for Divorce Checklist:

  • Obtain legal counsel specializing in divorce
  • Obtain copies of important documents:
    • Existing marriage and divorce paperwork (i.e. prenuptial/postnuptial agreement, court orders)
  • Birth certificates and social security numbers for yourself, your spouse, and your children
  • Financial and legal accounts documents such as credit card statements, automobile titles, household bills, assets, insurance, property title, mortgages, investment and retirement accounts, wills, debts (business loans or personal loans)
  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Employment records
  • Timeline of important events
  • Change your passwords and turn off shared devices and shared “cloud” services
  • Open a P.O. Box
  • Consider a separate bank account and/or credit card
  • Prioritize self-care

Although this may be an extensive and longer checklist, ensuring that all these action items are taken care of will be a huge help throughout the actual divorce proceedings process and after the divorce is finalized. If you have any questions about any of the checklist steps here you can always give us a call to help you understand why each of these items are important.

During a Divorce Proceedings Checklist:

  • Keep a journal
  • Avoid social media
  • Consider re-entering the workforce
  • Leverage your team of trusted professionals
  • Continue to prioritize self-care, focus on loved ones

As this can be the most stressful time period of the entire divorce process, as this is when you will be spending time in divorce court proceedings, meeting with your attorneys, working on negotiations, etc. we highly recommend prioritizing your own self-care and focusing on your loved ones at this time period to help manage the stresses.

This is a fantastic place to really leverage your team of trusted professionals and experts whose job it is to make all of the complexities of these processes much simpler for you and your family.

After the Divorce is Finalized Checklist:

  • Keep a hard copy and electronic copies of your final divorce decree
  • Make changes accordingly:
    • Updating names on titles and insurance policies to all property and automobiles
    • Remove your name from any debts that are no longer your responsibility
    • Close shared accounts, make sure that there are no outstanding payments that need to clear, open new accounts
    • Update auto-bills to the appropriate accounts
  • Update your name and address on all accounts and recurring bills, if applicable
  • Create a budget for your new lifestyle, consider re-entering the workforce
  • Update or create new retirement and estate plans
  • Update beneficiary information on all life insurance and retirement accounts
  • Obtain health insurance, if necessary.

We understand that all this information may be overwhelming at the moment, which is why we’ve made a simple one-page PDF that you can download and keep on hand for when you want to go through this checklist again in a simple format.

You can fill out the below form to get our free PDF that includes a simplified breakdown of these longer checklists to get started now.

Get Your Free Checklist Below:

Fill out the below form to download your free copy of our Checklist for Widows and Divorcees 

Picture of Admin


The opinions expressed in this blog post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. It is only intended to provide education about the financial industry. As always, please remember that investing involves risk of loss of principal and capital. ARQ Wealth Advisors, LLC is a registered investment adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where ARQ Wealth Advisors, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by ARQ Wealth Advisors, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place. Likes and dislikes are not considered an endorsement for our firm.