This article is a guest post by Lucille Rosetti of the website The Bereaved.
Grief is a process that everyone has to experience their own way, but if your parent or other loved one has been widowed, one thing you can do is help with the major financial decisions they need to make. Besides handling the day-to-day financial tasks, perhaps the most important way you can help is to sit down together and look at some big-picture concerns you may need to address. These are the issues that will shape your loved one’s overall financial security, in the short term and on down the road.
Changes in Income and Benefits
Most married couples rely on their combined income, but when one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse often has to adjust to a reduction in benefits. This is because widows and widowers can only receive one partner’s social security benefit, whichever is greater, after their spouse’s death. And while some pensions provide complete survivor benefits, MarketWatch explains that others provide reduced benefits or none at all to a surviving spouse. Because social security and pensions are the top two sources of income for many seniors, one of the first things you should do is take a look at your loved one’s situation to see how they will be impacted by these changes.
Another change to watch out for is your loved one’s health insurance coverage. If they have original Medicare, a change in income may impact the premium they owe for Part B. As an alternative to original Medicare, some seniors decide they are better off with a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans are provided through trusted insurance companies and usually offer expanded coverage like dental care, vision, and prescriptions. One way you can help is to research available Medicare Advantage plans. The ultimate goal is to make sure your loved one has the coverage they need through a plan that also fits their budget.
Worry About Final Expenses
Besides managing everyday expenses, it’s also normal for seniors who have lost their spouse to worry about major expenses that lie ahead. One thing your loved one may start thinking about is how much end-of-life arrangements cost and how they don’t want to burden family members with that expense. To alleviate these worries, set aside some time to have a conversation about pre-paid funeral plans. Many funeral homes offer prepaid funeral trusts, or you could save for funeral costs using a joint savings account. Another option that many seniors prefer is to purchase final expense insurance. These policies are typically smaller (and less expensive) than other types of life insurance, and they are designed to cover funeral expenses, along with other debts a person may leave behind. And if you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to select a reliable power of attorney so you’ll have someone around who can make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so on your own.
Long-Term Care Costs
As a child or caregiver, you may be thinking about what to do if your loved one reaches a point where they need long-term care. Along with the decision of what kind of care someone needs is another big question: How do you pay for care? Seniors who don’t already have long-term care insurance typically need to seek other sources, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. If your loved one has a life insurance policy, Kiplinger recommends exploring whether you can add a chronic care rider that will allow them to draw benefits for long-term care.
If your loved one or their spouse was a veteran, they may be eligible for assistance with long-term care through the VA. For non-veterans, another thing that gives some seniors peace of mind is to realize that they may be able to use Medicaid for long-term care if they meet the income requirements.
Regardless of the circumstances, the time following a spouse’s death is something none of us can really prepare for. When a senior loses their spouse, the emotional toll of grief is only part of the burden. Having to make sense of the practical matters can feel like an added source of stress, but having the help of someone who cares can go a long way toward easing that worry.
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