Dealing With Finances as a Widow(er)

The loss of a spouse is a devastating blow, both emotionally and financially. The grief one endures often has to be set aside to deal with situational matters at hand; your altered financial plan.

To handle your finances as a solo entity and not a couple is a difficult, but not completely impossible journey.

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First things first, organisation

With your new financial outlook, it is important not to get overwhelmed about impending changes. Start out by sorting paperwork into colour-coded folders or a ring binder with dividers to organise everything you need in a systematic order.


Keep a daily log of all that you have dealt with during a day and include notes you take of important phone calls, meetings and paperwork that needs to be signed.

Kathleen Rehl, a CFP professional and author of “Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows says, “Cognitively, your thinking is different after a death … Early on there is heavy grief, then a period of growth and then a stage of transformation.”

A triage works best

If your spouse was the ‘keeper of the keys’ and managed all the finances, passwords, account numbers, household bills and insurance policies, make sure you start to hunt for these. If you are too distraught, get a friend to help you.


The most important thing is to ask, “Do I have enough money right now to cover all my needs?”

Solve this dilemma by organising a triage of your finances, whereby you assess the order of your essentials, i.e. bond repayments, monthly household bills as well as home, car and health insurance.

Your bills can be organised in date order to help you organise your cash flow with payments that are the most time-sensitive.

Veteran financial planner, Jane Young and owner of says, “You don’t want to make any long-term decisions, but you do need to understand cash flow”.

Retitling assets into your name

If your spouse shared a joint account with you, do not rush to put everything into your name. You will still have access to this account and your assets will not run away, so leave it be until you are ready.

Estate Planning

At least one joint account should stay open for a while as you may receive odd cheques even years later.

According to the section 37C of the Pension Funds Act 24 of 1956, your spouse’s retirement fund will only become available 12 months after their passing, so make sure you are prepared for this.

Eventually, you will retitle your investment accounts, the house and the car in your own name, but there is no need to do so immediately.

Realign financial goals

Two or three years will often go by before a widow starts to think about a few life changes. Allow yourself time to reflect on where you want to live, how you want to live and what makes sense financially.


By this stage, you will have managed the art of living as a single income family and may start looking at investments.

Investments may include ideas you had with your partner in the past and would like to revisit. It is vital to think about the type of investment you want and the overall risk tolerance you are willing to take.

Many spouses feel guilty if they change the initial investment plan they had agreed upon with their spouse as there are memories attached.  It may be wise to ask a third party advisor to help you make investment decisions that will be objective and emotion-free.

A fiduciary who you trust and will take care of your financial matters in an impartial fashion would be highly advisable.

Dealing with your finances after your partner has passed on is an unsettling, yet necessary part of life. It is important to prepare yourself for such instances to ensure your standard of living will not be compromised and a feasible future is in sight.

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