Navigating Financial Changes After the Death of a Spouse

The following is a post from guest writer, Sara Bailey.  You can find more information from her at www.The

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.

Image via Unsplash

How to Fall Asleep While Grieving

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

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.


Terminal Cancer Diagnosis How Will You Cover Costs?

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

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.

One on One Funeral Planning Consultation

As of December, 2016, I have temporarily removed my book from sale while it’s undergoing revision.  In the meantime, you can still get excellent Funeral Planning Advice from me by making an appointment to talk with me on the telephone for a maximum of one-half hour for $35.00.  During that time I will show you how to save money when making Funeral Arrangements, among other areas of importance.  Doing it this way will be faster than the consumer sitting down and reading a book.  We can get to your areas of interest right away.

Please contact me for more information.  Just email me at


Will Online Competition Affect the Funeral Business?

What effect, if any, will online competition have on the funeral business?  Will growing online sales of funeral goods and services  change the industry in any way?

I think the funeral business has been slowly changing to reflect online competition, and more importantly, the trend towards immediate cremation rather than a traditional funeral, but I do not anticipate any huge change or disruption in the near future.

Funeral providers are already forced to be transparent in their pricing.  According to the FTC Funeral Rule, a funeral home is required to provide a written price list.  They must accept a casket purchased elsewhere, and are not allowed to apply a markup or service charge to it.  Cremation providers already advertise their prices in various publications, and discounting is common in that area.

Regardless, even if consumers purchase their own caskets, they are usually obliged to go to a licensed funeral provider for other services needed, be it embalming, preparation, transportation and burial of remains, etc.    So profits have been declining while costs are increasing, but I don’t believe the industry will change drastically.  I recommend the best way to save money is for consumers to always price shop before the need arises.

If you have any questions about funerals for either humans or pets, ask the expert!  Email Mike at


Cremation Tip!

How can consumers save money on cremation services?

Try the following:  Go to a local telephone book or search on the Internet in the area where the cremation will take place.  Look up “Cremation (or Memorial) Services” ,  and “Funeral Homes”.  Call several of them.  You should be able to receive price information over the telephone without the need to visit each facility you call.

Have a question about funerals or funeral planning for humans or pets?  Ask the expert!  Email Mike at



Should I Donate My Body to Medical Science?

A popular notion lately is that donating one’s body for medical research is a good way to avoid or reduce funeral and burial costs.  It may not be that easy!

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the cause of death, not all remains are suitable for medical research use.  In the case of an accident, certain illnesses, or other causes of death, the body may no longer be in acceptable condition, and anatomical donation may be declined.

Consumers wanting anatomical donation should always have an alternate funeral plan in place, in the event donation is not possible.  For more information on this topic, please click on the Funeral Q & A Column heading on this site, where there is a sample question about anatomical donation.

Have a question about funerals or funeral planning for humans or pets?  Ask the expert!  Email Mike at

Funeral Jokes and Funny Stories Wanted

I need jokes and amusing stories about death, funerals, and related topics for both humans and pets to post on my website, and I’m willing to pay for it! Just talking about death related issues can be  boring, and I would like to spice it up!  May sound bizarre but funny jokes and stories exist, and I would like you to contribute!

Here is how it works:

You submit any of the above to my email, , and if I select your submission for placement on my website I will give you a complimentary one-half hour interview ($35.00 value) to talk to me personally about your funeral planning questions or plans, be it cremation, traditional funeral plan or whatever. It’s that simple! I will give you the best advice possible to help you in your decision making process.

Putting a funny side on a serious subject may help ease the tension of wanting to talk about the subject and allow the consumer to acquire more information about death before it occurs, to their benefit!

Let’s make it work! Consumers helping consumers better understand a very difficult subject in an upbeat manner.

All jokes and stories must be your original work only.  Please do not submit previously published material.



Will Your Death Put Your Family in Debt?

The cost for a traditional type funeral plan can be substantial, a major expense comparable to purchasing an automobile, furniture, or even a home, but it is the least researched purchase made by most consumers. Generally speaking, consumers look at talking about funeral planning prior to death as taboo, and this type of thinking can cause overspending and other problems, including how to pay for the funeral plan without running up debt they cannot afford to pay back. I advise consumers to look at funeral planning like any other financial investment and include it in their retirement savings plan. Funeral planning and how to pay for it should be included in financial planning matters and should be offered by financial planners to their clients.

If a death occurs suddenly and without warning, such as due to an accident, then a financial burden can occur within the family. When death occurs, many times family members want the best funeral plan available to honor their loved one, possibly never thinking about how it will be paid for. They pay the funeral director, cemetery or other facility with a credit card or other financing option; then the bills come due!

The death of a family member could cause a negative financial situation for the survivors if the deceased did not have any life insurance, death insurance or money in an account such as a Totten Trust which could help pay for funeral and final disposition expenses. This is why it is so important to become as educated as possible about the funeral planning process prior to a death.  Visit funeral homes, get price lists, visit cemeteries and mausoleums and get their price information, so you can be as educated as possible about making a funeral arrangement either at need (a death has occurred) or pre-need (a death has not occurred or is not even anticipated in the immediate future) and stay within your particular budget.

Generally the funeral home will want full payment at the time of death. Even if the deceased had a prepaid funeral plan, paying for it in monthly installments, if death occurs before all the payments have been made, they will usually be due in full at the time of death. So this can be a challenge for many families who do not have cash available to pay off the amount due.  Also, the deceased’s assets and accounts may not be available to the family until the estate has been settled.

There are many ways to save on the cost of funerals, including direct cremation options. Please check out my website,, and my article “Frugal Funeral Planning” for tips and suggestions.

Have questions about funerals and funeral planning for both humans and pets? Contact Mike at


U.S. News Article on Planning for Funeral Expenses

I was interviewed recently for an article in US News about the importance of planning for funeral expenses.  Here is an excerpt:

Death and funerals are taboo topics but ones worth learning about, says Mike Boyd, a former funeral director who founded the website “Funeral homes can capitalize on a family member’s unfamiliarity with the products they’re purchasing,” he says. “Odds are, they will make funeral arrangements one to three times per lifetime, so consumers should become as educated as possible.”

This is the message I am constantly trying to get out.  Consumers need to learn about the economics of funerals before the need arises.  The more you know, the more you can save, and the less are your chances of overspending or being taken advantage of when purchasing funeral goods and services, at a time when you are grieving.

If you wish to read the entire article, here is the link.

Have questions about funerals or funeral planning for either humans or pets?  Email


Good News for Pet Lovers!


More and more pet cemeteries nationally are allowing pet owners to have their cremated ashes in an urn be buried with their pet(s).  I recently spoke with a pet cemetery representative who told me their cemetery has three sections: one for humans, one for pets, and one for humans who wish to be buried with their pet(s).  Times have changed in favor of pet owners staying with their pet(s) even in the afterworld.  Long overdue!

If you are considering this type of final resting place, be aware that laws governing this type of funeral plan may vary from state to state. I suggest you do some research by contacting pet cemeteries in your area, ask questions and find out if this type of final resting place is for you and your pet.

Need additional help, please feel free to contact me at


Hospice Care in Question?

Hospice care to me has always been thought of as care provided to patients who are near death. This care uses drugs, including morphine, to make the passing of the patient easier.  I recently read an article that really disturbed me regarding Hospice care for patients not near death.

Is Hospice providing service to patients not in need of their type care yet?  It appears that some physicians may be recommending patients enter Hospice care programs unnecessarily, and Hospice accepts these type patients.  In many cases this is not appropriate or helpful to the well-being of the patient, and in some cases the patient emerges from Hospice addicted to powerful pain killers.

It is most disturbing to think that this is happening in our health care system, and Medicare is being billed for this service by Hospice.  Is it time for someone to look into this questionable practice by Hospice?

If you (or your loved one) are referred to Hospice care by a physician and do not feel it is the appropriate care for your medical condition, always seek a second or even third medical opinion.  It may prolong your life!

If you have questions about funerals or funeral planning, email Mike at

It’s Not Our Loved One in the Casket!

A family went to a Florida funeral home only to find the person in the casket was not their loved one.  To make matters worse, the funeral home staff had dressed the stranger in the clothes the family had selected for their relative.  OOPS!   Within a short period of time the situation was corrected by the funeral home staff. Hopefully, the funeral home provided new clothing including undergarments at no charge to replace the clothing the family had provided.  A lawsuit in the works?

Have questions about funerals or funeral planning? Email Mike at

Can Radioactive Seed Implants Prohibit Cremation?

Radioactive Seed Implants are sometimes used to treat prostate cancer. If cremation is being considered and the deceased has had radioactive seed implants, the crematory may not allow the deceased to be cremated unless the seeds are first surgically removed by a physician. If you have further questions on this topic, contact a Cremation Society, a Memorial Society, or a Funeral Home.

Have questions about Funeral Planning for both humans and pets?  Email Mike at

Court Rules Remains Can’t Be Divided

A recent Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling in Florida said that a deceased’s ashes are not “property” and cannot be divided between his feuding parents.

The young man was tragically killed in an automobile accident, and his parents, who are divorced, have been fighting over his ashes, disagreeing on where they should be buried.  Fortunately the court recognized that these are, in fact, the remains of a human being, not the family silverware.

The three-judge panel then issued an ultimatum: find a way to dispose of the remains in 30 days or the court would appoint somebody to do it instead. The case will now likely go back to the lower trial court.

Have questions about funeral planning for either humans or pets?  Email Mike at




Unique Places to Scatter Ashes

The following is a guest post by Steve Wyso of My Cremation, serving Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but parting with their ashes can be an emotionally freeing experience. If the departed has chosen to be cremated, finding a location to scatter the ashes can be a confusing situation. Read on to discover suggestions on unique locations to scatter ashes.  

Private Land: Many families have privately owned land that has been passed down from generation to generation. Casting your family member’s remains on your families land is appropriate, particularly if your family spent a lot of time there. For example, your family may own a farm or vacation home. Scattering ashes in these private locations will keep your family member close to your heart forever. 

Landmark:  A landmark can take on a variety of meanings, including a national landmark or a personal landmark. If a loved one travelled a lot, or travelled to a particular destination often, scattering their ashes there would be fitting. Popular landmark locations in the United States include the Washington Monument and the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. Personal landmarks can take on many forms. A loved one may have been particularly fond of a neighborhood park or lake. Scattering their remains there will commemorate them in a unique way. Be sure to check the local laws before scattering.

Sea: Casting ashes at sea has grown more popular in recent years, and a popular choice for family members who were fond of boating. Common locations include the Chelsea Piers New York Harbor, Cape May New Jersey, Daytona Beach Florida, and Maui Hawaii. Your family can hire a company to hold special services at sea to commemorate the life of your loved one before casting their ashes into the ocean.

Stadium: Scattering ashes in a famous stadium or at a local sports club would be fitting for a departed sports lover. In this situation, speaking with the groundskeeper or management at the facility is paramount to be sure you are allowed to scatter the ashes there. Many of these facilities have strict policies set in place, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  

Outer Space:  Many people dream of journeying into space, but not many consider becoming part of the earth’s orbit. Astronauts now have the ability to take a sizeable portion of ashes and send them into earth’s orbit, deep into space, and even onto the surface of the moon. Special celebrations called launch events are held where friends and family can gather to watch the ashes be brought up to space.

Celebrate the life of your friend or family member by casting their ashes in a unique place. For more information on cremation and cremation services, contact My Cremation.


Funeral Planning Information From a Business/Financial Perspective