Helping Senior Loved Ones Manage Financial Decisions Following the Loss of a Spouse

When someone passes away, there are a number of financial decisions that must be made. In the wake of grief, these issues can be overwhelming. Here is how to help your loved one through the process.

Death Certificates

Your loved one will need to secure copies of the death certificate to send to lenders, insurers, and other institutions. The record of death will be reported to the local or state vital records office within a few days. A dozen or so copies of the death certificate will be necessary. One recommendation is to protect the deceased spouse’s identity by notifying the three major credit reporting bureaus of the death. The survivor can take the opportunity to request credit reports as well; some professionals advise getting an updated credit report since it will help in recognizing the various institutions involved.

Foreign Ground

Many couples divide the tasks of running a home. That means when someone passes away, unfamiliar roles suddenly become part of the survivor’s duties. What’s more, there are a number of decisions that must be made when someone passes away. Even if the surviving spouse is used to navigating finances, this can be an especially overwhelming time. Encourage your loved one to set aside a little time every day to address financial issues. Forbes suggests the tending of both pressing and routine finances. By collecting death benefits, ensuring cash flow, and addressing basics such as the mortgage and utilities, your loved one can manage the role and begin to reestablish a form of order in life.

Bill Paying

Help your loved one make a list of all routine bills. Also, be alert to scammers; unfortunately, there are scoundrels who attempt to capitalize on people during difficult times. Keep your eyes open for any unusual invoices, as they may be fraudulent.

Organize Paperwork

Depending on the circumstances, your loved one may need to get a handle on the deceased person’s paperwork system. If you are fortunate, everything will be in a file drawer or the bank’s safe deposit box. However, many people aren’t that organized, and on top of that, many people are using online banking and bill paying these days. It may take a little time and detective work, but things need to be put in order.

Review Insurance Policies

After the loss of a loved one, it’s important to review health and life insurance policies. The survivor should evaluate whether to keep or sell a life insurance policy. For instance, settling a life insurance policy can be helpful with expenses and medical costs down the road. If your loved one didn’t handle finances, there may be other insurance policies to review and become familiar with as well, such as vehicle insurance, homeowner, credit card, and accident policies. There is a lot to remember, and for those who didn’t handle financial decisions in the past, it can become overwhelming. Sometimes, an online tool such as a surviving spouse financial checklist comes in handy.

Get Professional Advice

While many people are afraid of the costs involved with hiring an attorney, USA Today notes an attorney’s advice is often needed when it comes to the probate process. As some experts advise, there may be assets to transfer and accounts to consolidate. Sometimes things can be complicated. For instance, as the Wall Street Journal explains, if there are beneficiaries named on accounts, those decisions can override the decedent’s will. In the end, the expense of an attorney can be money well-spent. Your loved one should also consider connecting with a tax preparer or an accountant to discuss whether a final income tax return or an estate tax return should be filed.

Love and Loss

Managing financial decisions following the loss of a spouse can be overwhelming. You can help your loved one with some of the basics. Ensure the necessities are covered and get advice when needed. With good planning, you can help your loved one through this most difficult time.

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