How to Gently Help a Loved One with Financial Decisions After the Loss of a Spouse

Author: Lucille Rosetti, Image via Unsplash

The death of a spouse or long-term partner is a devastating event. It can have a significant and profound impact on a person’s life. While the emotional aspect of death is the hardest to overcome, many people find it difficult to navigate the challenges of money management once they are in a one-income home.

Today, the Arizona In Home Care Association shares insight on how you can help a loved one maintain their financial footing after suffering this great loss.

Waiting Period

Death often comes as a shock, even when it is in the aftermath of a known illness or injury. When we experience this type of trauma, it is often in our best interest to wait at least six months to one year before making any major decisions, financial or not. If your loved one has expressed interest in things like cashing out their retirement or selling their home, in the days or weeks following their loss, help them decide if that is the best choice. Do this by listening to their needs. Sometimes, it must be done, while others it is simply a knee-jerk reaction to change.


Death does not stop the bills from piling up. If your loved one is in immediate need, their first instinct may be to sell their home. While this is often a smart move that can provide them cash to help pay for the things they need, it doesn’t have to be the first course of action. There are exceptions to this, however, including if it is their only source of money or if the death occurred inside the home as part of a traumatic incident. If they have no other assets, it is wise to talk with a realtor to help determine the home’s value before making a decision to sell.

If they do have a cash cushion, that will buy them time to handle other important matters. A few things you might help with now are:

  • Contacting the Social Security Administration. According to the AARP, most funeral directors report deaths to the Social Security Administration. But, the surviving spouse is ultimately responsible for ensuring this is done. You can contact the Social Security Administration at 800.772.1213.
  • Helping them locate their spouse’s will. In an ideal world, the couple’s will and other financial documents are in a safe location, such as a bank lockbox. But, if not, you can offer a helping hand by searching their home and contacting known current or former attorneys.
  • Closing joint bank accounts. All joint bank accounts should be closed and reopened in the surviving spouse’s name. This can reduce the possibility of someone fraudulently presenting themselves to the bank as the deceased person down the road.
  • Hire a financial planner. Even if there is very little in the way of assets to work with, it’s beneficial to partner with a financial planner. This is especially true when the deceased spouse handled all the money matters. Investopedia explains that a financial advisor can help them assess their goals and create a plan for the future.

  • Planning a move. When the time comes for your loved one to move, do what you can to help them sort their belongings. This can be an emotional process, so be patient and remain supportive. You can also help your loved one find a reputable moving company by searching for “movers near me” and reading customer reviews.

Losing someone is a heart-wrenching experience. But, life must go on, and the bills won’t stop coming. The above tips can help you help someone you love take control of their finances so that they can better focus on managing their grief.

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