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Financial Decisions Don't Stop with Death

Death does not stop time from ticking forward. There are pressing decisions that must be made upon the death of a loved one. Many of these revolve around money and simply cannot wait for grief. Older people often have trouble taking on and managing financial matters after losing a spouse, especially if the spouse handled the family budget. If you want to lend a hand during this tumultuous time, here are some ways to help your senior loved one:

● Avoid hasty decisions.In the aftermath of death, it’s easy to go into panic mode. Decisions regarding their living situation, career, and retirement will seem like top priorities. And they are; however, the vast majority of decisions can wait until weeks or months after the funeral. FINRA cautions against making sudden job changes, since working may provide support in the form of friendships your loved one might need to get through the emotional roller coaster of grief. Discourage any major changes in the first few months.

● Appoint a legal decision-maker.Your friend or family member may need assistance managing their finances after the death of their spouse. Encourage them to appoint a power of attorney. This is a legal relationship that allows a trusted individual to serve as a guardian of sorts and can make responsible financial – or healthcare – decisions on your loved one’s behalf should they become incapacitated. Likewise, discuss with your senior loved one the idea of creating a living will. explains that a living will gives them an opportunity to outline their own end-of-life care before it’s needed.

● File for Social Security. Your loved one may be eligible to receive their deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits, which may be collected starting as early as age 60. Filing for Social Security may be done online or in person at a local office, although the latter of which may require long wait times.

● Take stock of accounts. Spend a day or two helping your senior loved one gather information regarding any accounts and assets their deceased spouse managed. This may include bank accounts, retirement savings, real estate, or valuable personal property, such as artwork or jewelry. Once assets are known, compile a list of any debts and subtract the latter from the former to determine their net worth. Knowing this number can help them budget for the future. Mint offers more information on how to create a family budget with advice on controlling discretionary spending and tracking expenses.

● Watch for fraud. Unfortunately, the obituary section of the local newspaper is prime hunting grounds for unscrupulous people looking to defraud survivors. Criminals can mine for information, such as birth date, maiden name, and the address of the deceased. This data can then be used to hastily open accounts in their name. Further, crooks can use survivor information to target a grieving spouse, whom they will then approach pretending to be an associate of their husband or wife. A common form of fraud is claiming the deceased owed money on a purchase intended for the surviving spouse. Keep the obituary short and stay diligent on behalf of your loved one.

● Find an expert.Finally, consider hiring a financial planner or advisor to guide the survivor in the right direction. Not only will this ensure they receive expert advice, but will help avoid family arguments, pointing fingers, and disagreements that inevitably arise after death.

Watching a loved one suffer the loss of spouse is hard. It’s even more difficult to watch them try and navigate unfamiliar financial territory. Help them by offering advice and guidance when you can and finding the right financial advisor when you can’t. 

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