A guest blog by Lucille Rosetti from Thebereaved.org
When a loved one passes away, there’s often so much to think about that figuring out the details can be overwhelming. From planning a funeral or other services to making major decisions about whether to keep a family home or sell it, there is often so much to do that things get overlooked. For seniors who have just lost a spouse, finding a way to cope with grief while making decisions about their own future can be next-to-impossible.
If your senior loved one has recently lost a spouse or partner, it’s important to find ways to help them make the right choices for their needs, both present and future. That can be difficult, especially if there are health issues involved, but it’s imperative that your loved one feels safe and comfortable in moving forward.
Here are some helpful tips on how to help a senior loved one handle financial decisions after losing a spouse:
Get paperwork together
Having the correct paperwork -- and keeping it neat and organized -- will help your loved one finalize insurance policies and take care of any accounts that hold both their name and their spouse’s. Assist your loved one with obtaining several copies of the death certificate, any insurance paperwork, military discharge papers, the Social Security card, marriage and birth certificates, and copies of the deceased’s last will and testament. Keep the originals in a safe place, and put copies into an accordion folder where they can be easily accessed.
Go over insurance policies
Health and life insurance policies can be difficult to understand, and the last thing your senior loved one probably wants to do is wade through several pages of legalese. Look over the paperwork and help your loved one determine whether what types of policies apply to them and what they need. It’s also worth determining if they may be able to sell a life insurance policy, which can help provide extra income down the road. Go the extra mile and prompt your loved one to seek the help of a financial advisor who can give sound fiduciary advice and help your loved one implement a plan for their future needs.
Take care of the most pressing matters first
Because there’s so much to think about in such a short time frame, it’s important to help your loved one focus on the most important matters first. This means managing bills like the mortgage and any other monthly payments that are due; they can worry about the bigger picture a little later. Trying to figure out whether to sell their house is a stress that doesn’t need to be added to the grief of losing a spouse. This discussion can be tabled until life quiets down a bit and your loved one feels ready to make that decision.
Encourage them to stay in the home for a little while
While selling the home can be an income boost and help save money down the line, it’s a good idea to encourage your loved one to stay put for the moment, until they have a good handle on their finances and are certain the housing market is stable. It may take a little while to get the home ready to sell or to find one that meets all of your loved one’s needs, so don’t let them make any hasty decisions.
Keep spending under control
It’s a good idea to make sure your loved one has a handle on their finances, so encourage them to create a budget and look for apps and websites that will help make staying on top of their spending easier.
Helping your senior loved one make difficult financial decisions after such a major loss won’t be easy, but in the long run it will help make things much smoother. Get organized and make a list of all the things that need to be taken care of, and include your loved one in all the decision-making. With a good plan, you can help reduce some of the stress they’re feeling.