The grief of losing a spouse or another long-term partner can take a long time for an elderly person to overcome. If your parent goes through this experience, they may need your support more than ever. In addition to helping them cope with their loss emotionally, you may need to help your parent resolve certain sensitive matters, which they may be reluctant to confront directly. Sometimes an adult child can make a big difference to a widowed parent simply by providing more regular assistance with minor activities in daily life. Showing that you care about their well-being can help bolster their emotional stability. However, if your parent appears to be unable to live independently without the assistance of a spouse or partner, you may need to help them consider various options for long-term care.
Another issue that can arise involves handling the estate of the deceased spouse or partner. They may have designated your parent as the executor of their estate, unless they designated a child of their own instead. Serving as the executor of an estate is a significant responsibility if it arises, and your parent may want your advice. You may need to help find the will of the deceased person and identify the full scope of their assets and debts. Taking a step back to understand the duties of an executor may help you decide how best to assist your parent. Read more here about the duties of an executor.
Financial and Legal Matters
The loss of a spouse or partner may make your parent think more carefully about the arrangements that they would want to put in place for the end of their own life. They may feel that the time has arrived to create a financial power of attorney, an advance health care directive, and other estate planning instruments that will convey their wishes. You can advise your parent on how each of these documents can benefit them, as well as the pitfalls of which to be aware. If you are not the named person on a power of attorney, you should help make sure that your parent has designated a trustworthy person for this crucial role.
If your parent already has a basic will or estate plan, they may want to revisit it to make sure that they incorporate any updates. Perhaps they will want to allocate their property differently, or perhaps they have acquired property more recently that they should include in the estate plan. Your parent should share information with you (or another trusted person) about how to access these estate planning instruments, as well as other key financial documents. If they have not yet made arrangements for the funeral or burial of their choice, they may want to start considering this difficult topic.
If your parent is no longer able to make these decisions, and they do not have estate planning instruments already in place, you can consider creating a conservatorship or an adult guardianship. This will allow the guardian or conservator to handle these matters on their behalf.