Lessen the Stress of Becoming Widowed

It is no surprise that dealing with the emotional impact of the death of a spouse is overwhelming. For many widows, handling the financial implications of her husband’s death may be too much to bear. However, that is what most widows must do.

A recent study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave on widowhood shows that a mere 14% of 3,300 respondents said they were making financial decisions on their own, before their spouses passed away. That is a very low number of women in charge of their financial lives as married women, says Press & Guide in the article “Financial planning can help ease impact, stress of widowhood, study shows.”

Widows are tackling major challenges in the days and weeks after the loss of a loved one. That includes everything from funeral costs, mortgage or rent payments, other costs of running a household and for many, medical costs. With nearly half of those in the study reporting a household income drop of 50% or more after the death of a spouse, that is an enormous burden to take on during a time of great grief and upheaval.

The women are also facing the tasks of juggling Social Security, pensions, life insurance and making sure that their late spouse’s retirement accounts are all correctly transferred into their names.

There is often a lack of preparation for this situation. Many are simply not prepared for how complicated it is to deal with the loss of a spouse.

The study reports that couples who plan for this situation, have their level of worry cut in half. Only 38% of the widows in the study who had conducted financial planning, worried about not being able to support themselves immediately after the death of their spouse. That compares to 64% of widows who had not planned at all.

Widowers (men whose wives have passed) face unique challenges. If their wives pass first, they may be faced with taking on their own caregiving. Statistically, women outlive men, so the widowers have to adjust to losing a caregiver. There may be new financial costs they would not have had to bear, if their wives were still alive.

The first step: meet with an elder law attorney. Make sure that a will and power of attorney are created, along with any other necessary planning documents. Both spouses should be familiar with all accounts, and both names should be on the accounts and all deeds. Don’t forget to organize all important papers in a file drawer at home or in a safe deposit box. Know where everything is and how to access it.

Having long-term care insurance in place and making sure there are assets available for caregiving, should be a part of everyone’s plan for longevity. Even if you don’t need home health care or to live in an assisted living facility, someone will eventually need to provide some level of care. 

Reference: Press & Guide (Nov. 19, 2018) “Financial planning can help ease impact, stress of widowhood, study shows”

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