In the majority of marriages, there is the chance that one spouse, usually the wife, will outlive the other. The surviving spouse is then left without the aid of a partner to make important financial decisions. The following four tips can help you set them in the right direction.
- Funerals don’t have to cost their life savings. Funerals can cost $10,000 or more if expensive extras such as video memorial DVDs and satin casket lining are added. Funeral planning is difficult in the best of times, but when the deceased fail to outline their specific wishes, the grieving spouse may be pushed or guilt-tripped into services or embellishments that are not necessary. Remind your loved ones that the dearly departed would most likely rather they take care of the loved ones physical or financial needs, rather than have an extravagant send off. Predatory funeral homes are notorious for targeting seniors while they are at their most vulnerable in the early stages of grief. One way to prevent this is to research these businesses before they are needed.
- Scammers are everywhere. Even more dangerous than unscrupulous funeral homes are scammers who troll the obituary section of their local newspaper. Scams targeting survivors of recently deceased individuals often take the form of fraudulent debt collectors. Another common ruse is pretending to be a business associate of the decedent and claiming that money is owed. Seniors may also be led to believe that a grandchild or other loved one is in urgent need of cash. These types of scams take advantage of people who are experiencing grief, which adds to mental and emotional stress, and impairs judgment.
- Their budget should be reviewed.The death of a spouse will have an impact on the family budget. Regardless of age or financial circumstances, your loved one should take a look at their incoming funds and outgoing expenses. The loss of an income can make this a tricky process, especially if it will have an impact on the surviving spouse’s quality of life. A budget tool can help them crunch the numbers and decide how much of the money should be earmarked for necessities and for future expenses. Make sure they include things such as a mortgage, homeowners insurance, groceries and medical care costs. Conversely, seeking tax and financial planning is essential in the case of a large inheritance. In addition to offering guidance, you can make things easier on your loved one by helping them gather the appropriate documents they’ll need to collect and distribute death benefits. This may include a death certificate, insurance policies, military discharge papers and marriage certificate.
- Changes don’t have to be made right away. It’s natural for a surviving spouse to feel pressured into making major life decisions right away. However, this is typically not necessary in the first weeks and months following a death. If your loved one is considering, for instance, selling their home, encourage them to wait until they have been able to determine if it is financially prudent to do so. Selling their home may be a good option if the surviving spouse needs to free up cash for their own expenses and medical care. Help them get in touch with a local realtor to determine the potential value of their property and then do the math. Other major financial decisions that are not urgent include changing jobs, moving in with an adult child, and changing financial advisors.
Losing a spouse is never easy and making major decisions, especially those relating to finance, while under duress can lead to long-term money troubles. But with your help, your loved one can navigate the financial twists and turns and stay afloat in what will certainly be a sea of uncertainty.
Lucille 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 grief and loss, and how it can be an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t always seem to make sense.
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The Balance. “How Women Can Plan For Outliving Their Husbands.” March 2019. TheBalance.com