Seniors who have lost their spouses are going through the process of grieving, but life around them continues to move forward. As nice as it would be for them to focus on adjusting to life without their spouse by their side, there are various financial matters they must face. During such an emotionally charged time, it’s easy to make a mistake, which is why it’s so important that you help them navigate various financial scenarios for a much smoother grieving process.
Don’t Put Off Your Own Arrangements
You’ve seen firsthand just how much goes into end-of-life arrangements, including the associated costs. It was hard on your senior loved one, so maybe this is an opportunity to encourage them to go ahead and get their ducks in a row too so that it’s done and never needs to be discussed again. They can prevent the financial burden they faced from being experienced by loved ones with a pre-paid funeral plan. This can be accomplished with final expense insurance, a pre-need insurance plan (acquired from their preferred funeral home), or even setting up a payable on death (POD) account through their bank.
Don’t forget to have them update their will and living trust, and name new beneficiaries as well as a durable power of attorney. Naming a medical power of attorney is helpful as well should they become unable to make healthcare decisions. Have them revisit their Medicare coverage too and consider upgrading to an Advantage plan such as those offered through Aetna that cover all the healthcare basics, as well as medication, dental, and vision.
Don’t Forgo the Paperwork
After a spouse dies, there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be located in order to start managing finances appropriately. Help your loved one with this task by obtaining copies of the death certificate and their final Social Security and veterans’ benefit statement. Gather up birth and marriage certificates, life insurance policies, and all account usernames and passwords so that you can easily close accounts, transfer assets, and make claims. Don’t forget to make paper and electronic copies of all changes and updates, and then store them in a safe place.
Don’t Assume Household Finances Will Run Smoothly
Although every household is different, most households typically have one spouse who takes charge of the household finances, including budgeting, paying bills, and keeping tabs on the bank account. If the deceased spouse tended to take the reins when it comes to finances, you’ll need to help your loved one learn the ropes. Bills are a potential problem area, and failing to make payments on time has severe consequences, so help your loved one set up automatic bill paying. Budgeting is another area they may need help with, but it’s a necessity when living on a fixed income. So, sit down with them and fill out an expense sheet so they can see exactly what’s coming in and going out. To avoid overspending, see how they feel about switching to a prepaid debit card so that they don’t get swipe happy.
Don’t Feel Like You Have to Be in Charge
Handling your own finances is hard enough, but keeping track of your senior loved one’s finances is a full-time job. You can still help, but don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Seniors can benefit from a financial advisor, as they are trained to help with all sorts of challenges. Perhaps now that your loved one’s spouse is gone, they are worried that they don’t have enough savings or they are dealing with health expenses. An advisor can help your loved one formulate a plan based on their needs and prepare them for future expenses.
Both you and your loved one are grieving, and finances are the last thing you want to deal with right now. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop, and there are decisions and changes that need to be made to ensure your loved one is taken care of. You’re in it together, so pick up those financial reins and help guide them in the right direction.
About the Author: Lucille Rosetti created TheBereaved.org as a means of sharing tools to help people through the grief process. Having lost some of the people closest to her, she understands what it’s like, and how it can be an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t always seem to make sense. She’s currently writing an ebook, Life After Death: A Wellness Guide for the Bereaved, which will be available in Summer 2020.