How to Help Senior Loved Ones Deal With Financial Matters After the Death of a Spouse

Below is The Bereaved’s second guest post from Lucille Rosetti! You can find her blog, also named The Bereaved, here. If any of you would like to submit guest posts for this blog, you can email me at All guest posts are subject to my edits.


If a senior loved one has lost her/his spouse, she/he will have enough on her/his mind without having to deal with financial matters. However, during this time, financial pressures start to ramp up — funeral expenses, bills, and the loss of a second income can create additional strain. That’s why it’s important that you step in to offer your support and assistance with these financial affairs. Here are a few ways that you can help.

Collecting Paperwork

After a person’s death, a large amount of paperwork needs to be collected by the surviving spouse, and she/he will likely need help with this. The most important of these is the death certificate, as this will enable immediate access to funds such as life insurance. Everplans provides a guide on how to obtain the death certificate. Note that usually, you send the certificate to the companies in question, who will make a copy and send back the original. So if you have multiple companies to contact, it can speed matters up to order several death certificates — although you’ll probably have to pay a fee for each one. In regards to the other documents you need to collect, AOL has a comprehensive list.

Obtaining Survivor Benefits

Once you’ve obtained the relevant paperwork, you can start accessing funds. Start with life and other forms of insurance. If you have the death certificate, these will be processed quickly — often between 30 and 60 days — and can be paid directly to the beneficiary. You should also look into annuities, which are a form of retirement income paid to the holders of certain insurance policies. In some cases, annuities can be paid to the surviving spouse. You can also access social security benefits, which can include a one-time payment to help with burial expenses, and sometimes, ongoing monthly payments too. Nolo has a good guide on accessing these funds.

Distributing the Estate

After an individual dies, a legal process called probate begins in which that individual’s assets and debts are divided among their rightful heirs. If the deceased has a will, the assets will be distributed in accordance with it. Check with your loved ones to see if they know where the will is — if the family dealt with a particular lawyer, she/he may have a copy of it. If no will exists, then the assets will be divided in accordance with intestacy laws. The specifics of these laws vary from state to state. Note that an inheritance can be subject to taxation, and the surviving spouse and any other heirs may need to submit tax returns. Contact a legal or tax professional if you are unsure about this.

Deciding on Living Arrangements

Another aspect to discuss is where your senior loved one wants to live. If she/he doesn’t feel comfortable with being completely independent, an assisted living facility might be the right choice. Since cost can be the deciding factor, let your loved one know the typical price range of facilities in Atlanta runs from $1,500 to $8,080 monthly. You’ll find in your research that in an assisted living facility, your loved one will live independently, but also receive help with various personal needs. Most facilities provide hot meals and snacks, beautician services, and convenient access to social activities and events. Once you’ve chosen a few facilities, plan to tour them with your loved one to help her/him make her/his decision.

Their Own End-of-Life Arrangements

Although the death of a spouse is an extremely difficult time, all of these financial matters must be dealt with. Because your loved one will see first-hand how difficult and time-consuming it can be to conclude all of these matters, it can be a good time to discuss their own end-of-life arrangements. Only 27 percent of people have had “the conversation,” mainly because it is a hard thing to talk about, but making these arrangements can save a lot of time and prevent problems in the future. One important thing you can do is make sure all the required paperwork is stored in a safe place. You can also talk about having a will drawn up and setting aside some funds to help with funeral costs. 

Some of these actions can only be taken by the survivor, while others, you’ll be able to do on her/his behalf. Talk with your loved one about the amount of help she/he feels she/he needs — some people may want you to do as much as possible, while others may prefer to be involved more. When you are both ready, get started on these financial matters.
Photo: Unsplash


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