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Helping Senior Loved Ones Making Financial Decisions After the Loss of a Spouse

Published: Jan 11, 2019 by Brandon Smith

This post is a guest post from Beverly Nelson of Stand Up for Caregivers. Ms. Nelson may be reached at

Knowing how to help a senior loved one cope after losing their spouse is an enormous job, and it can come with so many emotions for both of you that it might feel overwhelming at times. One of the hardest parts of helping someone who has just suffered such a tremendous loss is talking about important financial decisions and the best ways to go about making them.

While some people plan well for their futures, many others have never had a talk about their end-of-life arrangements, leaving the surviving spouse unprepared and possibly facing some difficult decisions. In fact, only 27 percent of people have had the conversation, meaning it’s a good idea for you to talk to your loved one about their own arrangements and preferences. Keep reading for tips on how to help your loved one get through this incredibly difficult time.

Don’t Worry About Big Decisions Right Away

Your loved one will have a lot to think about immediately after their loss, and planning the funeral or other services will likely leave them feeling exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. Now is not the time to worry about making the mortgage payment; instead, allow your loved one to get through this period with minimal stress and worry. Only help them tackle the most pressing financial concerns right now.

Don’t Sell the House Yet

Your loved one may be tempted to sell the house right away, especially if it was a home where they lived with their spouse for many years. The memories it contains can be hard to be around during a time of grief, but it’s important not to make such big decisions right away. For one thing, the home may need some small repairs or updates, which can take time; if the home isn’t ready to be put on the market, it will languish for months. Encourage your loved one to take some time away from the home — they may choose to take a vacation or stay with family for a while — and then come back to it to make a decision about selling.

With that said, it’s not a bad idea to consider selling the home eventually. Houses take money, time, and energy to keep up, and it often proves to be too much for one person to handle. Your loved one may feel more comfortable downsizing to an apartment or a smaller home. Additionally, selling their home could give them funds to pay for long-term care should the need for it ever arise. For example, if your loved one ever needed to move into an assisted living facility, that expense averages over $45,000 annually — and if they have a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, that cost creeps up to over $58,000. The profit made from selling their home could be a huge asset in taking care of future long-term care expenses.

Help Get Paperwork Organized

Your loved one will need copies of the death certificate in order to file a life insurance claim or to handle tax and credit considerations down the road, so help get all pertinent paperwork together and keep it in one safe place. Helping your loved one stay organized will prevent anxiety and added stress when they need it the least.

Keep the Checking and Savings Accounts the Same

It’s a good idea for your loved one to keep both names on bank accounts if they shared one, as there may be checks coming over the course of the next year with their spouse’s name on them. This will help avoid any confusion and will prevent delays when it comes to your loved one receiving money, which is especially important after a death in the family.

Have the Conversation

Bringing up your loved one’s wishes for their own end-of-life plans is difficult, to say the least, but it’s important that you’re aware of what they want. Allow some time to pass so that they may grieve in peace, but do bring it up down the road. Talking about whether they have a will, how they want to be laid to rest, and how to handle their estate will give both of you peace of mind.

Helping your loved one get through the loss of their spouse won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be stressful, either. Planning well and staying organized will help immensely. You can also help by running errands for your loved one or taking care of chores, especially immediately after their loss; this is the hardest time to have to think about everyday responsibilities.

This post is a guest post from Beverly Nelson of Stand Up for Caregivers. Ms. Nelson may be reached at