Helping Your Senior Loved One Through the Financial Impact of Losing a Spouse

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Losing a loved one is one of the most stressful and traumatic experiences in life. Unfortunately, we have to handle all kinds of difficult life decisions while we’re dealing with grief. The funeral and burial plans must be arranged, outstanding bills need to be paid, and the estate must be distributed. If your senior loved one just lost a spouse, you can be a great help to them during this rocky period. Here are some essential financial matters that should be tackled sooner rather than later.

Funeral Cost Planning

Planning for funeral costs is one of the most immediate tasks that need to be handled after a death. According to Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage, funeral expenses cost an average of $7,000 to $9,000. Cemeteries often have a separate set of costs for other essentials like a plot and headstone. Unless your loved one’s spouse had some form of life or burial insurance, covering these costs can be very stressful. Help your loved one shop around to avoid overspending on expenses like the casket or transportation. Contact several different funeral homes and compare their prices for services or items, so you can keep the funeral affordable.

Collecting Insurance Benefits

If the spouse had an insurance policy, help your senior loved one collect the payout. Investopedia recommends contacting the life insurance company as soon as possible, so your loved one can use the death benefit to pay for the funeral and any other immediate expenses—most companies will pay within 30 to 60 days of your claim. Keep in mind that your loved one has payout options. They can choose to receive the benefit as a lump-sum payment or as regular installments over time. If they choose installments, they may have to pay tax on any interest.

Transferring Assets

According to FreeAdvice Legal, certain assets aren’t passed on by will. These include real estate, cars, investments, and bank accounts held by more than one person. Most of these assets should automatically pass to your loved one, but they will need to update the title into their name. Make sure your loved one transfers these shared assets by filing the appropriate documents to the right offices and agencies. If your loved one’s name is not on these assets, they will have to go through the probate process to gain ownership.

Paying Debts

If the deceased spouse held debt, your senior loved one may be concerned about their liability. The good news is that most debts are not collected from the surviving spouse. However, your senior loved one will be responsible for making payments on any accounts that their name is on. If your loved one did not hold any joint accounts with their spouse, they may be pressured by collection agents to make a few payments which could make them legally responsible for the debt. Make sure your loved one doesn’t make any payments without talking to a lawyer.

New Financial Responsibilities

Many senior couples become accustomed to certain roles in their marriage. If financial matters previously fell on your loved one’s spouse, they may feel overwhelmed and lost by their new responsibilities. Help your loved one organize their financial obligations. Track down all of their bills and consider setting up automatic payments with their bank. You can also help them come up with a new budget to ensure they can maintain their lifestyle without financial help from their spouse. Your loved one may be eager to pay off their mortgage, downsize, or make other large changes to their financial situation. According to U.S. News, overspending and rushing to make financial decisions are common mistakes that people make after losing a spouse. Encourage your loved one to take some time to think before committing to anything major.

Getting life back in order after a loss can take a long time, so be patient and gentle with your senior loved one. Avoid pressuring them to make quick financial decisions. Although you have the best of intentions, your loved one may need time to heal before they can gain a clear understanding of their financial situation.

Post contributed by Lucille Rosetti at The Bereaved

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