Advice for widows: Before and after the death
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Right now, three of my friends are living one day at a time through the slow deaths of the husbands. Their spouses are lovely, bright, and lively men with a lifetime of success in marriage and career. Their strong wives are there for them as they face decline.
In their 70s, two of these men are grappling with Alzheimer’s disease. The third has Parkinson’s. Their afflictions keep their spouses on a short tether, engaged in doctors’ visits, home care and day-to-day – sometimes minute-to-minute – management.
The end is clear. These men will almost certainly die before their wives. In fact, half of all American women over age 65 are single and on their own, emotionally, and financially because they have lost a spouse to death or divorce. This life-changing loss may happen in their 60s as it did for a couple of my friends because of cancer. And even more likely in their 70s.
With all this in mind, my Smart Money public television co-host, Pat Boyle, and I each invited a close widowed friend to join us on the show to talk about widowhood. It was a powerful conservation where they shared their experiences and their advice for women newly widowed or those who soon will be widowed. Below is their wisdom. (Click here to view the video on YouTube Smart Money).
What to do before the death of your spouse:
Update your health insurance coverage for your spouse during the annual open enrollment period that typically starts Nov. 1 through mid-December. In the face of serious illness, a less expensive Medicare Advantage plan will NOT be what you need going forward. Talk to your doctor’s office and to a health care insurance coverage specialist. Ask for advice on the best, most comprehensive coverage in the face of our spouse’s illness. A more expensive monthly payment may save you thousands and thousands of dollars in the longer run.
Adjust ownership of all tangible assets – vehicle titles, real estate, deeds, bank accounts and insurance policies. Make sure that the ownership transfer of these assets is seamless and low stress at his death.
Know as much as you can about all your finances – investments, Individual Retirement Accounts, savings, real estate holdings and credit card debt. Make sure you know how are they managed and by whom.
Review your household income and expenses prior to death. Then do a forecast on income and expenses post death. What changes when you spouse is gone? Look at income and expenses.
Also, look at your net worth – that’s assets minus debt. What might change down the road?
Get copies of your legal marriage certificate filed at the county courthouse. Make copies because Social Security and others will want to know that you were legally married.
With your spouse, make his funeral arrangements prior to his death so that you don’t overpay or are pressured by funeral directors or family to spend more than you want.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your spouse or your financial, legal and bank advisers. Widowhood does not mean that you are a victim.
Wisdom for widows, post death
Make lists, use "sticky" notes. You may think you are ready for the loss and the grief that will accompany the death of your spouse, but likely it will take months, maybe years to adjust. Lists will help you stay on track and avoid forgetting important to-do's, Grief and the shock of your loss may generate “fuzzy” thinking.
Don’t forget to pay your monthly bills.
Notify Social Security of the death as soon as possible. You otherwise may have to pay back automatic benefit payments. You will need a legal death certificate.
Make several copies of the death certificate.
Set up a face-to-face appointment at your nearest Social Security office to consider benefit options as a widow. Bring a legal copy of the death certificate and a copy of your marriage license. To receive widow’s benefits you must have been married 10 years or more.
Make NO big financial decisions for at least one year. Don’t sell your house, don’t change your routine but instead let things settle down, let your mind and soul recover. It will become clear what moves to make after time passes. Don’t jump into a reverse mortgage on your house, for example.
Don’t be afraid to constantly ask questions as issues arise. Being a widow does not mean being a victim. If you don’t get the answers you want, keep asking, keep researching. (When the Smart Money show becomes available on YouTube, I will add a link). - Julia
I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
Editor's note: All information provided at sixtyandsingle.com is for informational purposes only. Sixtyandsingle.com makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information or any damages arising from its display or use.