What if I am widowed?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
If you're a widow, you have special needs, especially if your spouse was the sole income-earner and kept all the books and records regarding the estate. There are some steps you can take as a widow to ensure that your house is in order. First, gather all the important documents you can find relating to the estate. In some cases, this may take a bit of work. Look through address books for attorneys, accountants, and friends your spouse may have had dealings with. Search for any insurance policies you may not have been aware of. Look in the glove box and trunk of the car for any important papers. Look for papers regarding any and all bank accounts and savings and credit union accounts. Check with the credit card companies--some provide accidental death coverage and policies that pay for outstanding debt upon death of the credit card owner. Check for deposits that may be refunded to you on telephones, apartments, safety deposit boxes, and post office boxes. Look for keys to strong boxes, safes, lockers and safe deposit boxes. These may hold insurance policies, wills, cash, jewelry or important documents. Other small insurance policies may have been obtained by the deceased through the place of employment, membership to fraternal organizations, social clubs, unions, or even the Veteran's Administration. Search the house thoroughly. People sometimes hide valuables in the oddest places. Call the appropriate persons listed on the documents you find to determine the current status of your spouse's accounts. If it's an insurance company, they can send you a claim form and will probably require a certified copy of the death certificate. Once your papers are in order, half the battle is over. You can now begin the task of making sure that you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled.

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