When a spouse passes away, having some difficulties is to be expected. With planning, those difficulties can be limited to emotions and not finances.
Upon losing a spouse one of the biggest problems people often face is understanding and handling family finances. This is a particularly acute issue for many older women who have left management of financial matters primarily up to their husbands. It can also be a problem for older men, if their wives handled everything. Regardless of which spouse predeceases, a lack of knowledge about the finances can cause increased emotional and financial stress at the most inopportune time. This is a mostly avoidable problem.
In most cases, the non-involved spouse just needs to be informed beforehand about how the family finances are arranged and managed. The spouse needs to be aware of insurance and retirement plans. They also need to know where to find the documentation for those plans, and which individuals to contact in regards to information about those accounts. Making sure beneficiaries of these types of accounts or plans is also very important.
Estate planning is particularly important, since it provides an opportunity for both spouses to discuss their finances with an attorney and to make arrangements for what should happen if the spouse who typically manages everything passes away. This also allows the other spouse a chance to reflect on whether he or she even wants to (or feels capable of) handling everything. The surviving spouse may sometimes be more comfortable having someone else in charge of the finances through a trust or other legal entity.
Aside from just preparing your spouse, you should also take steps to prepare your children, or grandchildren, or any other person that would tasked with handling your daily affairs, should the need arise. If you and your spouse happen to pass at the same time, one of your heirs will have to manage your financial affairs. Keeping your documents together, in a safe place, and making your heirs aware of where to find those documents is key.