Financial Help When Someone Dies
When a loved one dies (especially a loved one who contributed to your household income), there are more than just emotional side effects to contend with. From medical bills to funeral planning, death is an expensive process—one that leaves most families without the means to cover all the costs. And finding financial support during this time can be tricky.
Where to Find Immediate Assistance
Even in the best of situations (where the deceased had a life insurance policy), it can take weeks or even months for money to be processed and put into your hands. In the meantime, bills must continue to be paid, funeral expenses covered, and life continued on.
Here are few suggestions for helping that happen.
- Social Security Death Benefit: Many individuals are eligible for a one-time Social Security death benefit of $255. Unless the deceased was already receiving Social Security and had an automatic deposit set up, however, these funds typically take a few weeks to arrive. Veteran families may be able to get additional help from the Veterans Administration.
- Savings Account: If you have a savings account, now might be a good time to dip into it. Because many death benefits are paid out within a few weeks, you can usually return these funds when they arrive.
- Employers: Some employers have bereavement policies to support families facing a loss. You may be able to get paid time off from your own job, or there may be a way to continue receiving your loved one’s paycheck (to use up things like sick days and vacation days). Your loved one’s coworkers/union may also put up a fund to help you get through the first few months. (This is common in fields like firefighting or police, especially if the deceased was killed in the line of duty.)
- Talk to Bill Collectors/Mortgagers: You might be surprised at how flexible companies can be when a death occurs in the family. If you have a house payment due, an electric bill that needs to be paid, or other pressing bills, try talking to their customer service department. You may be able to get a deferment or extension (have extra copies of the death certificate on hand in case they ask) until you’re back on your feet again.
- Look to the Community: It can be difficult to ask for help, but it’s better to be humble and look to the community than to sink into debt when you already have the burden of grief to deal with. Churches, fraternal organizations, schools, and neighborhoods can often put up a fund to help cover your immediate expenses.
- Consider Bank Loans: While it’s never a good idea to go heavily in debt to pay for day-to-day life, you may be able to get an unsecured loan on the basis that you have life insurance or estate money coming to you. Talk with a banker about your options and about setting up a long-term financial plan.
Long-Term Financial Support
For the long term, the best way to avoid financial hardship after a death is to plan ahead. Life insurance, funeral insurance, funeral pre-plan accounts, a retirement account, and estate planning can all help you determine your financial future.
The topics of death and money are rarely ones that people feel comfortable talking about, but it’s a good idea to approach them now rather than when it’s too late. Death is difficult enough without the burden of debt having overhead.