What Would Happen to You if Your Spouse Died? About Death and Incapacitation

Are you prepared for when your spouse dies? It is not something we like to talk about or even think about but unfortunately, it is something that we need to deal with. 

A bunch of us were collecting money for a group gift.

“I’ll send you money soon,” one woman wrote “My husband is not home and I don’t know the login to my bank account. He takes care of the finances.”

I have no problem with any division of labor in a relationship. If a couple decides that the husband should be in charge of the finances completely, I have no problem with that. Do what works for you. If she wanted to wait till her husband came home to discuss this with him or have him handle the money transfer, then that’s great. What I have a problem with is that if something had happened to her husband- she would not have had a way to access her money.

(Disclaimer: I am using the terms husband and wife in this post but this obviously applies to any type of relationship you may have and whomever you have who takes care of your finances: whether it’s your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, significant other, mother, father, great-aunt, etc.)

What Would Happen to You if Your Spouse Died?

Think for one moment (even though you don’t want to)- what would happen if your husband (or whoever takes care of the finances) would die or be incapacitated for whatever reason? WOULD YOU HAVE ACCESS TO YOUR MONEY? WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO USE YOUR MONEY? Do you know where the money is hidden? What the code to the safe is? Would you know where your money is? Do you have the login info? Do you know how to retrieve the money you need? Do you know how to pay your bills?

For some of you reading this, you may think this is crazy. Of course, you know this information- if so-good for you! But you would be surprised by how many people (particularly women) DO NOT have this information or access.

I was talking about this with some friends- one person had an issue with this: what’s the big deal? Just reset the password? Just go to the bank with the paperwork and they will give you access. Possibly. Probably. But how long would it take? Do you have access to the email account which is connected to the bank account? Do you have paperwork proving you should have access to the money? Can you wait until Monday at 9 a.m to do this? Do you have time to wait for the manager to verify your identity?

Chances are unfortunately dealing with death or incapacitation is NOT something you want to deal with.


Know where your money is. Know which accounts you have and with which banks. If for some reason, you have separate accounts or private accounts- perhaps consider having a list of some sort (in a SAFE, SECURE space) that lists these details for the person you wish to have access to your account in the event you are unable to communicate with them.

Make sure your spouse knows the passwords to your bank accounts, email accounts, etc. If you can’t trust them with this information then perhaps you should reconsider your relationship.

Designate your spouse as your emergency contact and “additional user” on your accounts, credit cards, etc.
If you have separate credit cards, consider naming your spouse as an additional user who has access to the credit card as well.

If your spouse is unwilling to give you this information- you must seriously consider why.

Financial abuse is a real thing and help is available if you need it. (Contact https://www.thehotline.org/ if you feel you may be the victim of financial abuse)

Again, this doesn’t mean that you have to take care of your daily finances if that doesn’t work in your relationship. Many couples are very happy with the division of labor that they have chosen. That’s ok. But make sure that you have the KNOWLEDGE and ACCESS that you need in case of an emergency.

Caring about someone means making sure they can take care of themselves after you are gone as well.

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

4 thoughts on “What Would Happen to You if Your Spouse Died? About Death and Incapacitation”

  1. This is such an important issue, thank you for bringing it up. We often think we’re invincible, but an accident or illness can happen at any time. My husband experienced a ruptured brain aneurysm at age 55. Without having joint accounts or durable powers or attorney, you could face significant challenges accessing your money. Beyond that, if a spouse dies, it’s already overwhelming. Dealing with the added stress around accessing money and accounts only makes it worse.

    • I’m sorry that you had to experience that but I’m glad you were prepared. I know from numerous widows that there is so much to deal with after the death of a loved one, that having to figure out how to access your own money just adds such a level of angst that can be avoided. It can take years to get everything in order.


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