A strong sense of security—be it emotional, mental, physical, or financial—is fundamental to a person’s well-being. This is especially true during times of grief, such as the loss of a spouse. But there are a number of financial circumstances that can make a widow feel uneasy in the wake of loss. If a new widow counted upon her spouse’s income, this by itself can be a new source of financial anxiety. Even worse, if her spouse leaves behind unresolved debts, a new widow might find herself in an even more vulnerable position.

In the case of unresolved debts, new widows need to know that there are many cases where they are not personally responsible for their spouse’s outstanding balances. Acting hastily can result in costly mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided.

Keep in mind, though, that there are many widows who choose to pay their husbands debts right away. Their reasons could include anything from honoring their husband’s commitments, readily available resources, a strong sense of ethics, or simply ease—to eliminate the burden from her financial life.

But for widows who either (1) weren’t aware of the outstanding debts accrued or (2) whose cash flow is not immediately positioned to handle paying them off, knowing your options is a great first step to taking care of this task.

Here’s what you need to know as a new widow before you settle your late spouse’s debts: