December 23, 2019

Helping Seniors Make Sound Financial Decisions After the Death of a Spouse

The loss of a spouse is overwhelming in more ways than one. In addition to coping with the devastating grief of losing a longtime spouse, widowed seniors must grapple with all the ways their finances change when their household shrinks to one. If you want to support an elderly parent or other senior loved one through their time of grief, assisting with these financial decisions is one of the most impactful things you can do to help.

Paying for a funeral

The best time to make funeral arrangements is while alive when you can make practical decisions that reflect both your wishes and your budget. When seniors make final arrangements after a loved one has passed, grief leaves them susceptible to overspending and being taken advantage of by unscrupulous funeral homes. With funeral prices starting around $7,000 and rising to well over $15,000, this can have a big impact on a senior’s financial well-being.

On the flip side, if your loved one has limited funds for final arrangements, you may opt for cremation over burial, which drops the price range to between $1,000 and $8,000.

If your departed loved one didn’t have funeral plans in place, step in to help navigate the funeral planning process. As a neutral third party, Regions suggests taking practical measures like requesting price lists from funeral homes and learning about which services are required for burial and which are optional.

Deciding where to live

The loss of a spouse often marks the beginning of rapid changes in a senior’s independence. Without a spouse to share household duties and offer companionship and caregiving, many older adults begin to struggle at home. Even if your loved one is getting by, they may become lonely or isolated without a spouse at home.

While it’s never an easy conversation to have, it’s important to talk to your loved one about whether they’d be happier in a supported living environment like assisted living. Many seniors are apprehensive about assisted living, but it can be a great solution for seniors who no longer want to live at home even if they’re able to.

In addition to helping residents with personal care, medication management, and meals, assisted living provides a social environment where widowed seniors can form new connections and stay active and engaged. New England Geriatrics points out an active social life is a must for seniors, stimulating their minds, keeping them more active, and reducing stress.

If your loved one has a negative impression of assisted living, ask them to join you on tours of local communities to see how these facilities have changed over the years. For instance, A Place for Mom partners with 58 facilities in the San Antonio area, with a wide range of styles, prices, and amenities. Whether a senior wants private or shared living, a simple lifestyle or high-end amenities, there’s a community out there that’s right for them. 

Budgeting for the future

If the deceased spouse was the financial decision-maker, your loved one may need help getting a handle on household finances. That’s especially true in light of a death, which often comes with an influx of cash from life insurance while reducing the monthly income a senior receives from sources like employer pensions and veteran’s benefits.

Advise your senior loved one to meet with a fee-only financial planner for help making big-picture financial decisions like where to invest a life insurance benefit. You can also provide hands-on help with matters like applying for Social Security survivors benefits, updating wills and beneficiaries, and compiling a list of banking accounts and bills so that nothing gets lost or overlooked.

While there are some decisions that should be dealt with quickly after the loss of a spouse, encourage your loved one to avoid rushing into major financial decisions like selling or purchasing property, giving away assets, or buying financial products that sound too good to be true. The last thing a senior needs is to make irrevocable financial decisions while their mind is muddled by grief. For now, focus on creating financial stability and a secure, supported future.

Image via Unsplash

​​​​​​​Lucille Rosetti
24165 IH-10 West, Suite 217-170 San Antonio, TX 78257