**This guest blog was written and submitted by Lucille Rosetti from The Bereaved.**
The loss of a spouse is more than just a devastating emotional experience for seniors. Not only are they left without the love and support of their closest companion, but they are also faced with a slew of stressful decisions and new responsibilities to take on. If you’re looking for a way to help your senior loved one get through this traumatic event, consider lending a hand with some of the financial decisions that need to be made.
Plan for Medical Costs
According to a Place for Mom, seniors double their medical spending between the ages of 70 and 90. This can be especially burdensome if your loved one relied on their spouse to cover their medical costs. Although Medicare covers a good portion of these expenses for people over the age of 65, it doesn’t help with common expenses such as prescription drugs, dental care, and vision. This is why one in three seniors on Medicare supplement their coverage with a Medicare Advantage Plan. For example, check out MedicareAdvantage.com to learn about your loved one’s add-on options so they can receive additional financial assistance.
Collect Life Insurance
Your loved one may find it difficult to pay the bills without their spouse’s assistance. This is exactly what life insurance is for. To collect the benefits, your loved one will need to call the insurance company that issued the life insurance to inform them of the death. Before they call, help your loved one organize the three documents they need to claim the death benefit.
- The death certificate
- The life insurance policy document
- A filled-out claim form
In many cases, the bereaved cannot find their spouse’s policy documents or don’t even know a life insurance policy exists at all. You can help your loved one find a lost life insurance policy by following these steps recommended by the Balance.
Accept Any Available Benefits
Regardless of whether your loved one will receive life insurance benefits, they may also be entitled to government-provided benefits. Your loved one’s current age, the age they want to begin receiving benefits, and the length of their marriage will determine what percentage of the full benefit they can receive. Check out this article by USA Today to learn more about their options for Social Security. If the spouse was a veteran, the government will also cover a portion of the burial expenses, and your loved one may qualify for an additional survivors pension.
Close Credit Accounts
Any credit cards owned by the deceased spouse should be dealt with as soon as possible. Make sure your loved one does not use any cards that are solely in their spouse’s name — even if they are listed as an authorized user — or they may become liable for any existing debt. In general, your loved one should not be responsible for any debt unless the account is a joint account. To close the accounts, they will need to obtain multiple official copies of their spouse’s death certificate to send to credit card companies, banks, and credit reporting bureaus.
Create a Budget
Since your loved one’s income may have changed drastically, it can be helpful to create a budget to keep them from overspending. After a few months of tracking their income and expenses, help them cut out any unnecessary costs. For example, they may want to cancel any subscription services that were used by their spouse. Additionally, many widows and widowers consider downsizing so they can reduce spending on their mortgage and house maintenance.
Since the death of a spouse takes such an emotional toll on someone, it’s best to avoid making serious decisions right away. Encourage your loved one to put off the bigger decisions — like whether to sell their home — for at least six months. Instead, focus on the financial decisions that need to be tackled immediately to help reduce stress in their life right now.