Note: Today we have a short guest post from Lucille Rosetti. Her blog, The Bereaved, is an excellent resource for people struggling with elderly parents and family or friends suffering illness or struggling with old age or the loss of a loved one. She also has a book on the subject: Life After Death: A Wellness Guide for the Bereaved. The financial ramifications are significant. The best laid financial plan is straw in the wind when age and illness enter the scene. Please consider Lucille’s message.
How To Help A Senior Loved One With Financial And Legal Decisions
When a senior loses a spouse, their lives change dramatically. No longer do they have a partner to help make major decisions; not only that, they also have to make hard choices about their finances and lifestyle during a period of grief. It can be physically and emotionally draining, which can take a toll after a while. That’s why it’s so important to help your loved one emotionally and with both financial and legal decisions that could affect them for years to come.
Not only will your loved one need help planning for the funeral and other services, they need assistance with small things, like grocery shopping and paying bills on time. The loss of a spouse is a major blow that can lead to depression, stress, and anxiety, and few people have the capacity to think about the details during such a trying time. It’s also important for you to help them figure out their legal needs, such as creating a will, naming an executor of their estate, handing over power of attorney, and naming a health care surrogate.
Keep reading for more information on how to help your senior loved one manage financial and legal decisions after the loss of a spouse.
Take Care of the Most Pressing Matters First
While there’s certainly a lot to think about after losing a spouse, it’s important for your loved one to only take care of the most pressing matters first. There just isn’t room to carry grief, worries about the future, and attention to detail at the same time, so make sure they handle the most important things before sweating the small stuff. This means paying the mortgage and other bills that are due immediately, taking care of the deceased’s life insurance policy, and handling the funeral. Just about everything else can wait.
Obtain an Advance Directive
An advance directive is a legal document that names specific people as a durable power of attorney, a health-care surrogate, or an executor of the estate. It’s important for your loved one to have these documents — along with a living will — so that someone will be responsible for overseeing applications for Medicare or long-term healthcare, selling real estate, and accessing medical info and retirement benefits on behalf of your loved one. This will help your loved one in the long-term and will ensure that when they pass, there will be no lengthy, stressful legal battles over property, finances, or medical care.
Advise Them Not to Make Rash Decisions
One of the worst things a senior can do after losing a spouse is a rushed decision to sell the house. While they may want to downsize to save money or to have less to take care of, it’s best to make sure the market isn’t flat first; this will prevent their home from sitting on the market too long. They may not have the funds to keep paying the mortgage on their current home and make a move into something smaller simultaneously, so timing is important.
Watch Closely for Signs of Depression
After losing a loved one, many seniors find their grief never dissipates. They may feel sad and lonely much of the time, which can lead to depression, substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts. Watch closely for symptoms of these issues, which may include withdrawing from friends and family, not eating well, sleeping too much or too little, and losing or gaining a lot of weight in a short period of time.
Helping a senior loved one make such big decisions is never easy, but it’s important to find ways to protect their best interests during such a hard time. With a good plan and a little research, you can make sure your loved one is well taken care of even during the darkest of times.
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