Handling Grief and Finances: When a Spouse Is Very Ill or Has Just Died
No matter how openly you and your spouse have discussed end-of-life matters, few people are every fully ready to face the major grief and financial issues that develop right before or after a death. Therefore, start thinking about the various steps you’ll need to take to regain a sense of balance once your loved one passes away – particularly if you have limited financial assets.
The following tips can help you keep functioning effectively at this difficult time – and they can help you begin searching for the new resources you’ll need in the future.
Should Your Spouse Still Be Alive – Talk Openly About Your Finances
This suggestion is especially critical if you haven’t been the one handling all the monthly bills and monitoring all your investments. If your spouse cannot communicate easily, then go ahead and schedule appointments with your estate attorney and accountant to be sure you understand the full nature and extent of all your separate and community asset accounts. Also, try to locate all the usernames and passwords tied to every online financial account.
If you don’t already have one, consider buying an address book so you can alphabetically keep track of all online banking and investment account usernames and passwords. Make sure all this information is current and accurate.
Here are some additional bits of advice gleaned from a recent New York Times article and other sources. They should help you carefully address most of your emotional and financial issues.
Useful Ways to Manage Your Grief & Make Sound Financial Decisions
Postpone making any major new purchases. While it’s natural to try and make some minor changes in your home, give yourself time to really think about all unusually large purchases before making any of them. Likewise, hold off on immediately selling your house if you can – unless you truly need the added cash. When possible, wait at least six months or longer to make these types of decisions. Also, while distant travel plans might appeal to you, it may be more pragmatic and restful to first visit close family or friends;
Ask a local house of worship or your closest friends and relatives where you can find a good grief support group. You can also speak with a local psychologist or search for one online. Be sure to discuss rates, office location and insurance coverage in advance. Once you feel less alone in your grief, it should slowly become easier to make the hard financial decisions that await new widows and widowers;
Meet with or locate a trustworthy lawyer and financial advisor right away. Take all your most important banking, debt, and investment information with you – and be prepared to ask detailed questions to obtain the best advice. If you’re unfamiliar with these topics, consider taking an inexpensive online class on basic financial investment skills – or take a short-term evening (non-credit) course at a local university;
Stand your ground when interacting with adult children and other relatives who may be too eager to tell you how to handle your own affairs. Also, stay on the lookout for people who view those who have recently lost a spouse as “easy marks” for bogus investment opportunities. Always ask close friends and your attorney for advice before making any new major financial decisions;
Contact the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. See if they have any programs that may currently benefit you. They can put you in touch with many local community services such as Meals on Wheels, transportation to and from medical appointments, and help obtaining other necessities. When you’re ready, consider doing some volunteer work, joining a book club or pursuing a favorite hobby. Staying closely connected with others will greatly help you build a rewarding new life.
Please contact our office so that we can help you probate your estate or draft various documents as you settle your various financial matters.