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Hard Decisions: Helping A Senior With Their Finances After A Loss

Photo via Pixabay by Silviarita


When a senior loved one loses someone they’re close to — a partner or spouse, for instance — it can be difficult for them to make important financial decisions that will impact their future. Few things can prepare a person for the death of a family member, and grief and stress can take a toll on our decision-making skills. That’s why it’s so important to do what you can to help the process along, especially when it comes to helping your loved one with insurance policies, selling a home, and making final arrangements. The latter can really be helpful in giving your loved one peace of mind, and if you will be the one handling their last wishes, it can help you too.


Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your loved one make the right decisions. Helping them get through the first 48 hours is crucial, as there are lots of plans that only they can make, and doing so while they’re grieving can be overwhelming. Have a talk with your loved one about the best way to get started, such as only taking care of the most important bills first and leaving the rest for when they are in a better state of mind, and do what you can to help everything else go smoothly.


Handle the big things first

Because there are so many things to do after a loved one dies, it’s important to weed out the big items and make them a priority rather than getting stuck in the minutia. This means planning the funeral and/or memorial service, contacting life insurance companies if the deceased had policies, and handling any large outstanding bills, such as the mortgage. All the smaller things can wait a while.


Help your loved one get organized

It’s difficult to remember everything that has to be done following a loss, so help your loved one get organized by finding all the paperwork they’ll need, making sure they have several copies of the death certificate, and helping with anything they might need to take care of in the immediate days following their loss. It’s also important to encourage your loved one not to make any big financial decisions, such as selling their home, until some time has passed. Unless they are facing a huge financial hardship and can’t afford to stay in their home, it’s best to wait on those life-altering changes.


Assist with making plans

As you help your loved one with particulars, at some point, it’s a good idea to have a talk about their own final wishes. They should consider whether they’d like to be buried or cremated, where they want their final resting place to be, and what sort of memorial service they’d like to have. These can be hard things to think about, but it will give both of you peace of mind and will prevent any financial issues down the road, especially if your loved one has burial insurance. This can be used to pay debts left behind after your loved one passes or to cover the cost of the funeral, an immense help that will take some stress out of the planning process. Talk to your loved one about looking for the right kind of burial insurance, and keep in mind that the average cost is between $18 and $286 per month.


Helping a senior make financial decisions after they’ve suffered a loss can be difficult; their grief can make the process a little slower, and they may not be ready to think about moving on for quite a while. Try to be patient as you help them get through this hard time, and keep their needs in mind when it comes to helping with daily chores and responsibilities around the house, as this can be a great help. 


June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.
Photo Credit: Pixabay