The following is a post from guest writer, Sara Bailey. You can find more information from her at www.The Widow.net.
Navigating Financial Changes After the Death of a Spouse
In an ideal world, family could take ample time to grieve after the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, surviving spouses must handle a variety of important financial matters in the weeks following a husband or wife’s passing. From keeping the lights on to saying goodbye to a home, here are some of the most important matters surviving spouses must contend with after their partner’s passing.
Organizing the Bills
If your spouse handled the finances or financial duties were shared, collecting information on all household and personal bills should be an early step after your spouse’s passing. Find out which bills are on automatic payment and which you must pay manually. In addition to paying all bills that are due, you’ll need to switch accounts in your spouse’s name to your own.
If you discover your bills are more than you can manage in your spouse’s absence, consider how you can adjust your budget. Reducing household expenses can cover small shortfalls, but if the gap is large, you may need to take a larger step like selling your home. During this time, it might help to hire a financial planner to ensure you’re making the right choices and taking the proper steps. However, it’s important to find someone you can trust with your finances.
Updating Estate Plans
If your spouse features in your estate plan as a power of attorney, health care proxy, guardian, or beneficiary, update these appointments promptly. You may feel unsure of who to name as a health care proxy or power of attorney now that your spouse is gone. Rather than choose the person closest to you, ask someone you trust to honor your wishes. Forbes offers additional advice for choosing a person to serve in these important roles.
In addition to naming a proxy and POA, surviving spouses must update beneficiary designations or risk a costly mistake. Beneficiary designations override wills in court, so if you update your will but not beneficiary forms, your assets will likely have to go through probate. CNBC advises surviving spouses to update beneficiary designations with IRA, 401(k), and 403(b) plans, life insurance policies, 529 accounts and any other account that transfers on death.
Reviewing Insurance Policies
Find paperwork for life, health and other insurance policies and notify companies of your spouse’s passing, filing claims as needed. You’ll need to provide copies of the death certificate. If you had health coverage under your spouse’s policy, you may be able to continue coverage under COBRA. However, you’ll be responsible for the whole premium without the employer cost share. If that’s not available or cost-effective, shop for insurance on your state’s marketplace. In addition to health insurance changes, your life insurance may no longer be needed without a living spouse or dependent children. Weigh whether your policy is worth keeping or if you should sell it to help with living expenses, including medical care you may need later in life. If you decide to keep your life insurance policy, update the beneficiaries to reflect your spouse’s passing.
Living alone comes with risks. A senior living alone is responsible for maintaining and financing an entire property, and the extra labor increases the risk of falling while home alone. Social isolation in itself is a health risk, with effects like increased risk of depression, stroke and cognitive decline. Many seniors benefit from moving to a lower-maintenance home near friends and family after a spouse’s death. While it’s difficult to leave a longtime home, maintaining safety and social connectedness is paramount. If moving isn’t an option, hired help such as house cleaners and personal care attendants can ease the burden of living alone.
When you’ve shared a life for years, it’s difficult to adjust to living and managing finances alone. It’s common for spouses to divide areas of expertise, but when one spouse passes, the surviving partner is left to fill in the gaps. If you’re struggling to answer these big questions alone, know that professional guidance is available.
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The following is a post from guest writer, Sara Bailey, about how to fall asleep while grieving. You can find more information from her at www.The Widow.net.
How to Fall Asleep While Grieving
If you are going through a traumatic experience like the death of a loved one, one of the first effects that you may notice on yourself is a general inability to go to sleep. You may find yourself staying up much later in the night, watching television or drinking alcohol to get your mind off of your situation, and not taking part in your healthy habits that keep you in a good place both mentally and physically. While it is important to give yourself time to grieve, it is equally critical that you continue to take care of yourself, even in such a difficult time as this. Neglecting your own needs will only make your grieving process last that much longer; by taking care of yourself and making sure you get an adequate amount of sleep each night, you will help yourself begin to wrap your mind around what has happened. Here are some steps you can take to make it easier to fall asleep the instant your head touches the pillow, so that you can wake up feeling refreshed in spite of your difficult circumstances.
Change your behaviors before bedtime
Start by changing the habits surrounding the time you go to bed. For instance, you may be feeling like you need large quantities of coffee or energy drinks to get you through the day. While there is nothing wrong with a cup of joe, experts say that drinking coffee anytime after noon potentially will have negative effects on your ability to fall asleep, due to how long caffeine stays in the bloodstream. To fix this, try to drink coffee in the mornings only – its residual effects will still carry you through the day if you need it.
Similarly, you may find that the evenings are easier if you have a drink or two. However, while it may seem like the depressant qualities of alcohol help you get to sleep, the sleep it provides is actually fitful and light. This is why it is best to refrain from having a drink within a couple hours of bedtime.
Finally, the same is true of electronics before bed. While television may seem like a soothing, mindless pastime, the blue light emitted by most TVs (as well as laptops and phones) negatively affects your ability to fall asleep. Instead, use the time just before bed to start preparing yourself to fall asleep. Try some deep breathing exercises to relax yourself. You may want to listen to some soothing music while reading a book if you still need some form of entertainment to distract your mind.
Change the nature of your bedroom
The nature of your bedroom can also be affecting your sleep, particularly if you shared a room with your departed loved one. Difficult as it may be, it will be beneficial to go through their things. This will free up more space in your room and remove some of the constant reminders of your loss. You may not be able to actually go through their belongings one by one just yet; instead, move them to another location, or even a storage unit.
In general, cleaning your bedroom will help make it easier to breathe and, eventually, fall asleep. It’s tempting to let your standards of cleanliness go when you’re grieving, but a clean room will help foster a clear mind. You can make it easier to breathe while you fall asleep by purchasing a humidifier for your room. Humidifiers moisturize the air, soothing your skin and nasal passages, making it easier to sleep comfortably. Blackout curtains or eye masks are other tools that can help you fall asleep in a difficult time.
The grieving process is hard enough without having to deal with insomnia and daily fatigue. By making a point to improve your routine to allow for better sleep, you are taking the first step toward healing.
The following is a post from guest writer, Scott Sanders, about how to cover costs for terminal illness. You can find more information from him at www.cancerwell.org.
Terminal Cancer Diagnosis: How Will You Cover Costs?
Facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer is devastating enough. If your finances are also in turmoil, you and your loved ones can be overwhelmed. Here are some suggestions for covering the costs that come with treatment.
Consider your options. When deciding how you will pay for treatment, you should first have a realistic idea of what your expenses will entail. Carefully consider how you want to spend your remaining time and what treatments and procedures are important to you. Some of your options and ideas may change through the course of your journey, but as CBS News points out, many people with terminal illnesses experience treatments they don’t desire because it is standard procedure for the medical industry. This could mean incurring additional expenses and enduring difficult or unwanted procedures. Discuss your preferences with your physician and loved ones throughout treatment.
Disability benefits. If you are still a part of the workforce, The CPA Journal advises you are still eligible for disability benefits. You also can use your Health Savings Account, or HSA funds, to cover medical and treatment expenses. Depending on your circumstances, you might be eligible for Social Security disability payouts as well.
Viatical settlements. Viatical settlements are life insurance policies, which are typically available for those with a life expectancy of less than 24 months. The funds you receive through these policies are not subject to federal income tax.
Terminal illness insurance. If you are not expected to live more than 12 months, terminal illness insurance might be an option for you. Most standard life insurance policies offer a terminal illness benefit. It is designed to start paying benefits as soon as you receive a terminal illness diagnosis.
Medicare Advantage insurance. Medicare Advantage plans expand your Medicare coverage. These plans help cover expenses such as prescriptions, vision and dental needs, which can be especially helpful after rigorous cancer treatment. To enroll in a Medicare Advantage Part C plan, you should apply close to your 65th birthday, or 24th month of disability benefits. The enrollment period opens three months before the month in which you turn 65, and closes three months after the month of your 65th birthday.
Veterans benefits. If you are a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran, the Veterans Administration includes hospice and palliative care in the veterans benefits package. Benefits include in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care, there is no co-pay for hospice, and you can receive medical equipment, medication and personal care supplies. You also direct the pain and symptom relief around the goals set by you and your loved ones. You can apply online for assistance.
Funeral expenses. Planning and paying for your funeral in advance can alleviate a substantial amount of stress and emotional burden to your loved ones during a difficult time. U.S. News points out many people opt to pay with a trust or insurance through the funeral home, and a substantial number of people pay with a check or cash. Social Security also pays a small, one-time death benefit, which can be applied to funeral or burial expenses.
Self-funding. If you are wealthy or have assets you can liquidate, self-funding care is a viable option. Much depends on how readily available your assets are. Consider selling property you own outright such as a boat, RV or vacation home. Your decisions can impact taxes for your surviving loved ones, so consider talking with an attorney and/or financial planner regarding your estate. You may wish to review an end-of-life checklist as well.
Facing a terminal illness is difficult, and it’s important to establish a plan for your expenses. Being prepared can alleviate stress for you and your loved ones. Weigh your options and take your final journey on solid financial ground.
The following is a post from guest writer, Lucille Rosetti, about helping someone with Alzheimer’s deal with loss. You can find more information from her at www.thebereaved.org.