Guest Author: Tom Stephens

Hello, my name is Tom Stephens. I am an author, speaker, and Financial Advisor. My story: In 2005, my wife and I retired and moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where we happily lived the life of expats, enjoyed travelling, and making new friends. We thought we would live the rest of our lives  doing more of the same, but in 2011, just six days before Christmas, my wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4, both lungs and lymph nodes. We returned to Houston where our life was immediately transformed from the idyllic to a very draining schedule of doctor’s appointments, exams and scans, chemotherapy, medicines, nausea, infections, hospital stays, and suddenly, 13 months later, it just ended.

After the funeral, I searched for any books that would help me deal with the aftermath of the death of a spouse, but there just didn’t seem to be anything – almost as if it was a subject that everyone wanted to avoid. So I started down the path alone, keeping notes, talking to others in the support groups, and when I was finally done, I compiled my notes into a book entitled: “Survivor’s Handbook: Essential Guide to Financial Matters after a Death” available to families attending Bo’s Place support groups through the Lending Library at Bo’s Place or for purchase on  Here are a few critical highlights from the book:

Evaluate Your Emotions

Financial matters and death each create their own unique set of emotions where money is involved. Money on its own has a number of emotions attached to it. Grief will also have its own set of emotions. It is very important to try to understand where you are on this scale to help you avoid making any critical mistakes that could result in lifelong consequences. Seek professional help from a qualified grief mental health professional and/or join a grief support group. I attended several adult support sessions at Bo’s Place and they were very helpful.

Re-Establish Goals and Values

Goals give you a reason to get up every morning. Values let you sleep all night. Goals and values will form the foundation of your new future. It’s worth the time to give this some serious thought.


Some critical notifications are: Social Security, employer, banks and brokerage, credit reporting agencies. Most will require a copy of the death certificate. If you don’t have extra copies, you can order more from the county’s records and vital statistics office. Be sure to have at least two or three available as you may need one even several years after the death.

Hiring Professional Advisors

It is virtually impossible to know all you need to know about financial, legal, and tax matters after a death, and the laws are constantly changing. Take the time to find an experienced financial advisor, attorney, and tax advisor.

Parting thoughts: the death of a spouse or loved one can be very painful, but help is available, and Bo’s Place is a supportive place to start.