Looking to provide comfort and support to a grieving senior parent or loved one? The loss of a spouse can be difficult for seniors on so many levels, so you may be unsure about how best to help. One way you can support your parent or loved one through this overwhelming time is to offer your help with any financial decisions that accompany the death of a senior spouse, and these are the steps you can take in order to do just that.
Review Any Current Health Insurance Plans and Coverages
If you are helping a senior loved one sort through their finances, be sure to help them review their insurance coverages, including any Medicare plans. Too many seniors do not realize that they can change their Medicare plan during open enrollment, and so they end up paying way too much for prescription drugs or other benefits they need. Changes can be made during this period, which runs from October 15 to December 7, so make sure your loved one has reviewed their Medicare options beforehand. Certain other health insurance plans, such as those offered with Veterans benefits, can also be affected by the death of a spouse, so it’s crucial to go through any and all paperwork pertaining to your senior relative’s health insurance.
Have an Attorney Review Any Pertinent Legal Documents
Some financial matters may be easily handled by yourself and your loved one, but anything involving legal paperwork should be reviewed by a licensed attorney. For example, your loved one’s spouse may have left behind a last will and testament, which is a document that specifies how that person would like their finances and estate in the even of his/her death. Although seemingly simple, these types of documents can be fairly complex, and if not handled correctly, financial and estate decisions can be handled by the state instead of the family. So, visit with your family’s attorney or seek out an estate attorney, to avoid potential issues with the late senior’s will and testament, as well as other financial or estate matters that may be too difficult or complex for you or your loved one to sort out on your own.
Deal with Any Debts or Financial Obligations Left Behind
The death of a spouse can leave the surviving senior feeling a slew of emotions, including anger, denial, guilt, and stress. It’s important to recognize that this is a life-changing event for your senior parent or loved one, but it’s also important to find ways to relieve the pain, which includes finding ways to reduce stress. Stress levels can be particularly high after the loss of a loved one, especially if that loved one left behind debts. Resolving the debts of a late spouse can be simple if you are working with an estate attorney, but you should also know the rules around this sort of debt collection. For example, if the deceased spouse left behind an estate, debts can be collected from that estate. Excluding a few exceptions, however, if there is no estate, then creditors cannot force spouses to pay for debts that do not belong to them.
Figure Out Suitable Housing Options for Surviving Seniors
As you assist your loved one with financial decisions, the cost of housing and care should be factored in. You should think about whether a smaller home would be more suitable for the surviving senior. Weigh the pros and cons of downsizing, such as a lower mortgage payment, fewer maintenance costs, and less costly utilities. When assessing living expenses, you may also need to research long-term care costs, especially if the deceased spouse was providing care for your senior loved one. You will need to decide which long-term care option will work best and also help find a suitable way to pay for the associated costs of that care.
Dealing with and sorting through finances after the death of a spouse is never an easy task for seniors or their loved ones. In addition to dealing with some painful emotions, you are also dealing with some very complex decisions. So, use the steps above to guide you and remember to be patient as you navigate this process together.