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  • A Guide on All the Paperwork to File After a Spouse Dies

    A widow takes us through the process of death certificates, funeral claims, and more.
    by Gingpee Panares-Estrada .
A Guide on All the Paperwork to File After a Spouse Dies
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To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • On the phone, Gingpee “Ging” Panares-Estrada sounded so warm and jovial she made it easy to forget we were talking about her husband's death. They were married for six decades and raised three sons, now grown-ups, together. He died of a cardiac infraction heart attack last November 2016 at the age of 70.

    “It’s because he’s a smoker. Second attack na niya ‘to. I told him then, ‘Tigil mo na, may lamat ka na.’ Eh, matigas ang ulo eh. Mga lalaki talaga, 'no?” said Ging, who is in her late 60s.

    Ging says she and her husband were prepared for his death. “Don’t be afraid to talk about death with your spouse. We talked about our arrangements, and we had our papers ready.” 

    What she was not prepared was the unexpected, often unwanted, surprises when you become a widow, and that includes the amount of paperwork that needed to be done after her husband's passing. 

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    One of the surprises was Ging's discovery that her husband had money in the bank. "May ‘hidden wealth’ pala siya. Nakatago sa banko!” she animatedly shared. 

    Unfortunately, it will take at least two years before Ging can claim her husband’s ‘hidden wealth.’ Arranging financial issues with the bank is definitely the hardest part of the process, she says.  

    Ging, however, has taken care of the rest of the paperwork, from the death certificate to the death claim from the SSS. She wanted to share it because it was arduous work. "Before you say tapos na ang lahat when your husband dies, it ain't over ‘til it's over. Why? Before you know it, your travails of a bereaved wife has just started. What do I mean? For the bereaved wife, you have to prepare yourself for a lot of lakads." 

    Here's the process she went through in her words. 

    Step 1: Complete the death certificate
    It's straightforward form, but take note “cardiac arrest” is no longer an acceptable cause of death. If the deceased is declared DOA (dead on arrival) at the hospital, the death certificate has to be signed by your private doctor or the city health officer. Weigh the cost and utang na loob with your private doctor versus the city health officer.

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    Step 2: Funeral Claim (SSS/GSIS)
    The first item to claim from the SSS/GSIS is your burial expense. This was the start of my travails. The documentary requirements were as follows:

    a) Death Certificate Your various stops will always ask for a photocopy of the Certified True Copy.  I suggest that you ask your funeral service representative for two or three copies of the Certified True Copy. Keep a folder or file properly labeled. Ask your children (any, all or one of them) to do this.

    b) Receipt from the funeral service or payments made for the said service. Have the original photocopied since SSS will ask for a copy.

    c) Original identification cards (ID) of the claimant, usually the wife. If the claimant is an SSS member, the SSS ID is enough. But if the claimant is not an SSS member, prepare two original IDs and photocopy them as well.

    d) The SSS form
    you’ll need for the funeral claim. Get this from the guard. 

    The claim usually takes two or three weeks if there is no conflict with the deceased information (e.g. birthday or name).

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    Step 3: Death Notice (BIR)
    As the saying goes “ignorance of the law excuses no one.” You, as the bereaved family, should inform the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) of your late husband's death through a Death Notice, stating the name of the decedent, the date of his death, and the place where he died.  

    The Death Notice should be received by BIR within sixty (60) days from the decedent's death. You will be penalized for late filing of the death notice. (Thanks a lot to my friends who reminded me of the deadline!)

    If your husband has no real property, BIR still requires the following:
    a) TIN of the heirs: wife/husband and children. Have your original TIN photocopied!

    b) Barangay Certificate
    that the decedent lived in this barangay until the time of his death

    c) City Assessor's Certificate that the decedent has no real property

    d) Bank Certificate stating his latest deposit balances

    e) Death Notice together with the death certificate

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    Step 4: Death Claim (SSS/GSIS) 
    Yes, you have to go back to SSS for your Death Claim.  This will not be processed until you finish your funeral claim (See Step 2).

    This claim depends on the number of years that the decedent has been a member or a pensioner.  If it’s five years or less, this will be on a lump sum basis and proportionate to the number of years he has been a member or a pensioner.

    For the survivors' account, if the widow or widower is a pensioner, the requirements are:
    a) The original SSS ID of the claimant plus a photocopy

    b) The original SSS ID of the deceased member plus a photocopy

    c) Bank Certificate of the pensioner's account given by SSS. This has to be certified by the bank manager as it will show that all the balances to be returned to SSS have been returned.  Make sure that the form given by SSS is properly filled up by the branch and the designated bank branch officer.

    d) ATM/passbook of the deceased should be surrendered to SSS together with the other requirements. Have this photocopied. 

    e) Notarized salaysay (affidavit) by the claimant The salaysay contains the name of the deceased; the date/place of his death; and the surviving wife's name and legitimate heirs. 

    f) NSO Marriage Contract and a photocopy.  This will attest to the claim and your salaysay.

    g) The duly accomplished SSS form for the Death Benefits claim.

    h) For minor children, you have to present their NSO birth certificates.

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    Step 5: Financial settlements at the bank 
    The bank requires the bereaved family to publish newspaper announcements for three consecutive weeks (yes, 21 days!), even for deposits that do not reach P200,000. 

    (Ging told Smart Parenting that, aside from the funeral and burial services, this was the most costly of her expenses. A tip from her: tabloids are cheaper than broadsheets whether you’re buying a copy on the street or making newspaper announcements for the bank.)

    This requirement is really “adding insult to injury done.” Why? The deposit, at least in my family’s case, is measly and now, with our limited resources, we have to get through this bank requirement because their legal officers say so. What can we do but comply with this craziness?

    Yes, call it tedious or a drudgery but going through the process of claiming adds to the death pains of the bereaved family especially the poor wife or husband. Indeed, it is not only costly but very time consuming. Blessed indeed the dead for they will be spared of this process! 

    Interview and additional text by Jillianne E. Castillo

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