4 Financial Considerations for Seniors After the Loss of a Spouse
Special Thanks to Sara Bailey of www.thewidow.net for contributing this exclusive article for our readers!
When you lose a spouse, money may very well be the last thing on your mind. However, for many seniors, the financial consequences of being widowed can be extremely significant, and so these issues shouldn’t be ignored. Whether you are the person in question or whether it’s a loved one who recently suffered a loss, these are the areas a recently widowed senior should focus on when it comes to their finances.
The first thing that needs to be established is whether a significant source of income has been lost. Usually, for older couples, this will depend on the pension plan of the deceased spouse. If they had a pension plan known as “joint and survivor,” you are entitled to receive their monthly pension; however, if their payouts were based on life expectancy, you may lose this income.
So, what to do if your main source of income has been lost? There are a few options, including several ways you can make some alternative income using your assets or skills. However, you may also have to make some changes to your lifestyle, such as moving into a smaller home.
If your spouse had life insurance and you were the main beneficiary, this will make the financial burden easier. Find out the steps you need to take to claim life insurance and social security benefits here. This should also be an opportunity for you to look at your own life insurance. If your primary beneficiary has passed away, you need to ask yourself whether you still need to be paying for life insurance — do you still have dependents who would need that money?
If your spouse had any debts, you need to look into whether these are now your responsibility. According to Credit Repair, in most cases, debt is paid from the estate. However, if the estate does not have enough assets to pay off the debt it will most likely be declared insolvent and the debt written off. The exception is if you shared a joint bank account or co-signed on a credit card or loan – in that case, the debt is also yours, and your credit score may be affected.
Speaking of your credit score, you should work toward keeping it healthy, even if you are not affected by your spouse’s debts. A good credit score will make it easier for you to take out any future loans, and you can’t discount the possibility of needing one going forward. ConsumersAdvocate.org explains that there are many ways you can work to repair your credit score and several companies that can help you do it.
It’s normal to want to stay in the house you shared with your spouse, but there are actually a few reasons why you may consider downsizing; for example, you could find somewhere more comfortable, closer to family, or better suited for aging in place. That said, the financial incentive is a big one — you could potentially expand your retirement savings if you made a good profit on your house. Figure out how much your home is worth by using Zillow’s home valuation tool.
Another housing-related matter you may need to look into is your mortgage, especially if the house was in your spouse’s name. If this happens to you, you should seek professional help from a mortgage advisor. In the meantime, this article has good advice regarding your options.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and to have a hard time focusing on finances when you are dealing with loss. However, the logistics surrounding the death of a loved one are complex and often confusing, so it is better to sort things out as soon as possible. If you don’t want to deal with this alone, ask loved ones to help you with these financial matters, or reach out to an experienced financial advisor who can provide professional guidance.