(Welcome our guest writer, Camille Johnson from the website Bereaver.com. Thank you Camille for this wonderful article!)
Whether or not it is expected, losing a spouse often leaves seniors feeling helpless and overwhelmingly sad as they encounter life without their dearest companion. And as they face grief and unfamiliarity, they also must make difficult financial decisions. Considering the emotions involved, many seniors cannot make these decisions.
If you want to help an older adult maintain sound finances while grieving the loss of their spouse, there are many ways to do so. Below, we discuss a few practical ideas.
Sit Down With Their Budget
The first step in helping a senior through financial challenges is to assess their budget. They will likely have many hurdles to overcome in the coming months, and they need to know where they stand.
This is when you will look at all the potential costs, earnings, and changes that come with the death of their spouse, such as funeral expenses, life insurance, social security benefits, etc. Figure out how much they need to live off of, factor in all their current debts and costs, and write out a simple budget that will direct their spending.
Go Over Funeral Planning
If your loved one is in charge of funeral arrangements, they must consider many financial factors. For instance, they will need to choose whether to bury or cremate the body and where to hold the service. Many grieving people lean toward the most straightforward options available, which means your loved one will need your assistance when making decisions.
Research various funeral homes to compare prices and services, and offer to help with details your loved one is not prepared to consider.
Talk About Sales
Many surviving seniors opt to sell their homes. Not only can this help for emotional reasons, but it can also free up cash to help cover the various expenses they face.
If your loved one needs to improve their financial situation, consider helping them put their home on the market. Help them go through the costs, determine how much they could make from a home sale, and decide whether or not it is worth going through the process. If they choose to sell their home, be sure to find an experienced real estate agent to help walk them through the journey.
If they also have a business, assist them with the decision and process of closing or selling it. This may be relatively straightforward if it simply involves the sale of stock. Alternatively, it could be more legally complex if the business is transferred as an LLC.
These situations can often be stressful, and some helpful advice on good decision making may be in order. It’s most important to take a breath and pause before making a major decision. Your loved one may need time to consider all the factors and priorities necessary, but going through these decisions before they pass will avoid a potentially difficult probate sale.
Collect Life Insurance
Though life insurance beneficiaries are not required to make claims immediately, your loved one may need to access money quickly to cover the bills. If that is the case, make sure your loved one obtains their insurance policy. And help them file a claim with the provider.
You will need to get a claim form and a copy of the death certificate, as well as the policy document. Gathering all the necessary information and filing a claim can be overwhelming, so help your loved one organize and prepare the documents.
Your loved one may also have survivor benefits available to help them financially. Research social security benefit rules with your loved one to determine the best time to start receiving benefits. They may only get around 70% of their spouse’s benefits if they apply at 60 years old instead of waiting until they are 67. But if they start receiving the benefits earlier, they will be collecting money for a more extended period.
Work With Professionals
Finally, remember that you do not have to be the only one to help your loved one. If you try to go at it alone, you risk becoming overwhelmed yourself, which isn’t going to help you or your loved one. Find professionals who can help you through each step. Along with finding an experienced realtor, work with a financial advisor to help with your loved one’s financial planning and budgeting.
Another service to consider for your loved one is Wind and Wing. An experienced doula can help your loved one move through the process of loss after another’s passing.
No senior should have to deal with financial decisions on their own while grieving the loss of their spouse. Consider the tips above for helping your loved one navigate the various economic challenges ahead, and hire any professionals who can help throughout the journey. Remember to practice extra compassion with your loved one, and foster your health and well-being through it all.