Financial Help for Widows: Government Benefits, Managing Debt (2022)

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The emotional toll of losing a spouse is incalculable. Unfortunately, bereavement is not the only trouble that death brings. It may not even be the most lasting.

The surviving spouse often must deal with significant financial as well as personal loss. While this can impact both sexes, women tend to outlive men, and men tend to out-earn women, so the economic impact falls disproportionately on widows.

Fortunately, financial assistance for widows is out there. Little to none of it lasts forever, but it can be a lifeline for those who suddenly find themselves in need. It’s about more than finding sources of money.

Learning to manage your money, obtaining professional help if you start sinking in debt and knowing how the financial decisions you make affectSocial Securityare part of the equation.

» Learn More:Inheriting Debt

What Financial Help Is Available for Widows?

Before reaching out for assistance, widows need to know what they have, not only from their deceased spouse’s personal life insurance policies and savings accounts, but through his former employer. Find out what he had in retirement accounts and if he had a life insurance policy through the company.

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Financial help for single parentscan be found through several government agencies, nonprofit organizations, churches and community groups in the form of grants for low-income widows and professional financial guidance that includes debt management advice.

Of course, the most obvious place to seek help is from those closest to you: your family. A single child can give a widowed mother up to $14,000 with no tax ramifications either way. If the child is married, the limit jumps to $28,000.

Family members could provide a loan at no, or low interest. Naturally, any such loan should have repayment terms written out. That helps avoid both hurt feelings and more complicated problems when the widow dies and her will goes to probate.

Social Security Widow Benefits

Social Security is an important resource available. You can apply for Social Security benefits online, make an appointment with the local Social Security office or simply walk-in and see if an agent is available.

Depending on what benefits you are applying for, you will need to present certain documents. If you are applying for

A one-time payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased; or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record.

Monthly Social Security benefits may be available to a widow or widower age 60 or older (50 or older ifdisabled), a surviving divorced spouse in some circumstances and a widow/widower of any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and already receiving benefits.

If the deceased worked long enough under Social Security, the widow/widower can receive full benefits at the full retirement age or reduced benefits as young as 60. The amount of the benefit depends on the earnings of the deceased. The more they paid into Social Security, the greater the benefits.

Grants and Nonprofits for Widows

Let’s start with the bad news: There are no government grants specifically for people who lose a spouse. There are, however, grants to address specific needs, including needs that the widowed often encounter. A good place to start is Benefits.gov, which provides links to government benefits in every state.

Housing assistance is available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to public housing that provides affordable apartments for low-income tenants, HUD provides what’s known as Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program that can pay for all or part of rent, and also helps apartment owners offer reduced rents to low-income tenants.

Widows looking to improve their long-term finances through higher education may be able to get Pell grants of up to $6,095 per year that are available through the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office.

The United Way, the largest privately funded nonprofit in the world, is not set up to provide individual assistance, but works with many community partners who do. Call 211 to reach a referral specialist who will know what services are available in your area.

Dress for Success is another nonprofit that will help women achieve economic independence by providing support, professional attire and development tools to help women thrive in work and life.

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Charities and Church Assistance for Widows

Most of the nonprofit organizations, churches and community groups that offer assistance to widows can be found online. They usually offer help on a one-time basis for things like food, housing, clothing, furniture and other basic needs.

Some grants are available through private organizations. The Liz Logelin Foundation provides short-term financial help to young families with dependent children during the first year after death to assist with rent or a house payment, utility bills, a child’s activity fees, lessons, school clothes, a special family outing or gifts for the children. The Ted Lindeman Outreach Foundation has a similar program.

Many Catholic churches have a ministry called the St. Vincent de Paul Society that deals specifically with people in a financial crisis. Their assistance usually is on a one-time-only basis for needs such as rent, utilities and food.

Wings for Widows provides financial coaching and education for new widows to help them achieve financial wellness after a spouse’s death. Their service is free.

Not all the needs are financial, and there are organizations that help with the social and emotional loss of widowhood, includingThe Modern Widows Club, The Widow Connection, Hope for Widows Foundation and The Sisterhood of Widows. The American Widow Project is a similar organization for military widows.

Financial Assistance for Widows of Veterans

When military personnel die as a result of their service, their spouses are entitled to a death gratuity, which currently is $100,000. It is free from federal and state income taxes for any service member who dies while on active duty or while performing authorized travel to or from active duty.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors or veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.

For details and other benefits, visitSpousal Survivor Benefits.

What Happens to Debts?

Although many of the concerns widows must face involves lost income, there’s also the matter of debt the deceased spouse had. Is the surviving spouse expected topay debts after a death?

A surviving spouse is not responsible for the deceased spouse’s debt unless you co-signed a loan or credit card agreement. The most obvious examples of that are loans for a house, a car or a credit card. As co-signer, you are liable for the debt.

If you aren’t on the loan agreement, you are not personally obligated to pay it off.

However, in community property states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), a husband and wife are each equally responsible for paying each other’s debts as long as one of them acquired the debt during the marriage. Consult an attorney.

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Credit Card Debt

Was your name on the credit card as a co-signer? Then, the debt is yours, no matter how often you actually used the card. If you don’t pay on the card, your credit score will take a big hit, and you can expect regular calls from a collection agency.

Can’t pay? Don’t delay: Talk to anonprofit credit counseling agencyfor advice on a debt management plan,debt consolidationloan or debt settlement. Do it before a collection agency starts calling.

However, if your name is on the account simply as an authorized user, you are not responsible for the debts, but the estate is. If money is available when the estate is settled, it will go toward paying the balance of thecredit card debt.

Again, the community property exception applies here. Check with an attorney.

Mortgage Debt

If your spouse dies and the mortgage has not been paid, the responsibility typically falls to you. Assuming you want to keep living there, you’ll need income or assets to stay current with payments.

If the deceased had a life insurance policy, you might use the proceeds to keep paying on the mortgage, or even retire the debt. Another option could be selling the house to satisfy the debt, though that means finding another place to live.

If you or anyone else in your family is unwilling or unable to make payments, the lender canforecloseon the loan and sell the home through auction.

» Learn more:Mortgage Payment Assistance and Relief Programs

Medical Bills

This depends a lot on where you live. In general, a spouse is not obligated to pay the medical bills of another spouse. However, you typically would have to pay if you live in a community property state, or if you signed a document stating that you would be responsible for payments on a medical bill when your spouse was admitted to the hospital.

Some states have what’s called “doctrine of necessities.” This makes a spouse liable for the “necessary” expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage.Medical billsare almost always deemed “necessary.”

Even in states where those rules don’t apply, the creditor could still seek payment from the estate of the deceased.

Professional Financial Help for Widows

The melancholy irony of widowhood is that in your time of bereavement, it’s important that you don’t try to tackle the big issues all by yourself. That’s true even if you correctly consider yourself a capable, independent person. The issues are too important.

What issues? Pension options. Social Security spousal benefits. Life insurance. Paying the bills. Changes to your house title and other assets. Bringing your own will and estate plans up to date.

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This is a time for trustworthy advisers, both for immediate decisions and ones for the long term. Expert advice from an attorney, financial advisor and accountant can help you get through the tough decisions to make your future smoother.

Consult an Attorney

Using an attorney through the probate process is a good idea, even if the issues appear simple, and a really good idea, if they do not. A probate attorney can manage the process, enabling you to make decisions about your future.

Attorneys also can modify your own will and other documents in keeping with your needs and your new situation. Additionally, your attorney will be able to make adjustments to estate planning documents such as financial powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney and living wills.

Depending on the complexity of the estate, the legal process can take a few weeks to several years to complete.You absolutely need someone to guide you through that.

Hire a CPA

Taxes can be complicated enough in a normal year. The death of a spouse adds more variables, which makes a CPA a good person to have in your corner.

Some of your benefits may be taxable. Some may not. When filing taxes, you’ll want someone who can get the most out of deductions and plan for what you’ll owe. Unless you’re a tax expert yourself, hiring a CPA is a good move. Do so within the first month after your spouse’s death to make sure you meet tax filing deadlines for the estate.

Hire a Financial Planner

It’s hard to know where you’re going unless you know where you are, and that’s especially true of finances. A financial planner can assess your situation and the impact of your spouse’s passing on your future.

A planner who studies your assets and obligations can put together a financial strategy or update any existing plans to help your life become what you want it to be in terms of retirement, education, travel, charitable giving, among a wide range of possibilities.

That way, you can secure your financial future and avoid any unnecessary risks or sacrifices to your current lifestyle.

Consult a Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agency

Perhaps you’ve been widowed for a while, and you’re having a hard time paying your bills, much less saving for the future. The balance on your credit cards keeps growing, and you can’t seem to get on top of it.

There are reputable, nonprofit counselors that can help. Their services are available by phone oronline. Find one that is certified by the National Federation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) by using your favorite search engine. The NFCC certified the counselors at each of its member agencies and has very strict guidelines those counselors and agencies must follow.

Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals. But take note: Nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean free, and it’s best to check with online review sites, your state attorney general or local consumer protection agency to make sure they’re legitimate.

Reputable credit counseling agencies can give advice on managing money and debts, helpdevelop a budgetand offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money, debt management, and budgeting.

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Obviously, losing a spouse is difficult. Finding people to help you navigate the issues you’ll face will go a long way of making things better.

FAQs

What is a widow's fund? ›

A widow's allowance is traditionally an allowance of funds or personal property received by a widow after her husband's death to meet her immediate requirements. This financial process is also known as a widower or surviving civil partner's allowance, depending upon the parties involved.

Who can help me with money urgently UK? ›

Below are some of the options open to anyone seeking emergency financial assistance….
  • Hardship Payments. Short-Term Advance Payments. Budgeting Loans. Local Welfare Assistance. ...
  • Shelter. Crisis. Homeless Link. Emmaus. ...
  • MyMoneySteps. StepChange. National Debtline. Debt Support Trust. ...
  • Mind. The Samaratians. Rethink. Heads Together.

What do you mean by widow? ›

Definition of widow

(Entry 1 of 2) 1a : a woman who has lost her spouse or partner by death and usually has not remarried. b : grass widow sense 2. c : a woman whose spouse or partner leaves her alone or ignores her frequently or for long periods to engage in a usually specified activity a golf widow a video game widow.

What does the government do for widows? ›

If the deceased worked long enough under Social Security, the widow/widower can receive full benefits at the full retirement age or reduced benefits as young as 60. The amount of the benefit depends on the earnings of the deceased. The more they paid into Social Security, the greater the benefits.

What benefits can I claim as a widow? ›

There are two kinds of benefits that loved ones left behind may be entitled to receive after the death of a spouse. These are: Widowed parent's allowance. Bereavement allowance and bereavement payment.

Does the government give money to widows? ›

Social Security's Widow(er)'s Insurance Benefits are federally funded and administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits are paid to the widow or widower of a deceased worker who had earned enough work credits.

What is the first thing a widow should do? ›

Step 1: Take Care of Immediate Things

In addition to managing your grief, you will have to handle certain affairs immediately. Notifying family members, loved ones and family advisers will likely be one of the first things you must do. Decisions about organ donation and funeral arrangements will be the hardest.

How long do widows grieve? ›

Widow brain typically lasts from one year to eighteen months. It will start to clear up on its own as your grief lessens over time. However, you may find that there'll be things that your brain will have permanently blocked from your memory in order to spare you further grief.

How can I get immediate money? ›

19 Ways to Find Fast Cash
  1. Sell spare electronics. ...
  2. Sell your gift cards. ...
  3. Pawn something. ...
  4. Work today for pay today. ...
  5. Seek community loans and assistance. ...
  6. Ask for forbearance on bills. ...
  7. Request a payroll advance. ...
  8. Take a loan from your retirement account.

What is a hardship loan? ›

Hardship loans are a type of personal loan that, in many cases, have more favorable terms: These include faster funding, lower interest rates and deferred payments. They're especially useful for borrowers during trying times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can I get the government to give me money? ›

Search and Apply for Government Grants

To search or apply for grants, use the free, official website, Grants.gov. Commercial sites may charge a fee for grant information or application forms. Grants.gov centralizes information from more than 1,000 government grant programs.

What is a widow wife called? ›

(most common) Most of the time, you should use the honorific, “Mrs.” (missus), when you're addressing a widow. Use the prefix “Mrs.” and the woman's married name, if she changed her last name to her spouse's.

What is the husband of a widow called? ›

Definition of widower

: a man who has lost his spouse or partner by death and usually has not remarried.

What is the spouse of a widow called? ›

Word forms: widowers

countable noun. A widower is a man whose spouse has died and who has not married again.

Do widows have to pay debt? ›

When someone dies with an unpaid debt, it's generally paid with the money or property left in the estate. If your spouse dies, you're generally not responsible for their debt, unless it's a shared debt, or you are responsible under state law.

What are government survivor benefits? ›

If you retire under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the maximum survivor benefit payable is 55 percent of your unreduced annual benefit. If you retire under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the maximum survivor benefit payable is 50 percent of your unreduced annual benefit.

Do you get back pay for widow's benefits? ›

If you are a widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse applying for hospital insurance benefits because of a disability, you may be deemed entitled retroactively for up to 12 months prior to the month of filing, even if monthly benefits are not payable because entitlement does not exist before age 60.

What is a death grant payment? ›

Pension credit members

If you die after receiving a pension credit and before reaching age 75*, a death grant may be payable. Generally speaking, the death grant is equal to 5 times the pension less the amount already paid.

What is the difference between survivor benefits and widow benefits? ›

The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on age will remain at age 60. Widows or widowers benefits based on age can start any time between age 60 and full retirement age as a survivor.

Who qualifies for widow's allowance? ›

The de facto spouse may qualify as a surviving spouse if he or she lived with the deceased person for at least 3 years preceding the death. If a child was born or is to be born of their union or if they adopted a child, only one year of cohabitation is required.

How much money do you get for being a widow? ›

Widow or widower, full retirement age or older—100% of your benefit amount. Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age—71½ to 99% of your basic amount. A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or has a disability—75%.

What rights did widows have? ›

Widows regained the rights of unmarried women during the period of their widowhood. A widow could make a will, buy or sell property, act as a guardian, sue or be sued, or be an executrix or administratrix. If the widow owned personal property, she could bequeath it in a will.

Are widows benefits considered SSI? ›

A widow with low income and limited assets may receive payments from the Supplemental Security Income ( SSI ) program in addition to her Social Security benefits, provided the widow is aged 65 or older, or disabled.

What is the most difficult part of being a widow? ›

The feel of Loneliness

Similarly losing her spouse puts the widow into a position of loneliness. Even if the widow is always surrounded by the most loving and supportive people (friends & family) there'd still be times when she'd go through a mental state of isolation.

What hand do you wear your wedding ring on if you are a widow? ›

To put it simply, a widow wears her wedding ring on whichever finger she chooses. Wearing a wedding band on your ring finger on your left hand signifies you are married. Technically a widow is no longer married after her partner has passed, nullifying the marriage by law.

How old should a widow be? ›

To belong to this group widows had to meet the following requirements: be at least 60 years old, give themselves to prayer day and night, have no intention of remarrying, serve "the saints," show hospitality, and help the indigent (1 Tm 5.3–16).

What does a widow call her deceased husband? ›

A widow is a woman whose spouse has died; a widower is a man whose spouse has died.

Do widows go back to miss? ›

Widows, like anyone, ultimately have the final say about what they wish to be called, and there are certainly widows out there who prefer the title Ms. (or even Miss). But, when in doubt, stick with Mrs. — or just ask.

What to do when you miss your deceased husband? ›

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
  1. Take care of yourself. Grief can be hard on your health. ...
  2. Try to eat right. Some widowed people lose interest in cooking and eating. ...
  3. Talk with caring friends. ...
  4. Visit with members of your religious community. ...
  5. See your doctor.

What is the easiest loan to get right now? ›

The easiest loans to get approved for would probably be payday loans, car title loans, pawnshop loans, and personal installment loans. These are all short-term cash solutions for bad credit borrowers in need. Many of these options are designed to help borrowers who need fast cash in times of need.

What app will let me borrow money instantly? ›

Cash advance apps like Earnin, Dave and Brigit let you borrow a small amount from your next paycheck before you receive it. This quick fix may be helpful if you need cash in an emergency, but look for cheaper options before you borrow from an app.

How can I make $10000 fast? ›

24 Ways to Make $10,000 Fast
  1. Get a New Bank Account. ...
  2. Open a Credit Card. ...
  3. Transfer Funds to a New Brokerage Account. ...
  4. Invest in Real Estate (Roofstock, Fundrise, etc.) ...
  5. Rent Out Your Home Space. ...
  6. Teach Your Skills Privately. ...
  7. Sell Unwanted Jewelry. ...
  8. Sell Your Stuff.
9 Aug 2022

What qualifies as extreme hardship? ›

Extreme hardship has been defined by U.S. immigration agencies and the courts to mean hardship that is greater than what the U.S. relative would experience under normal circumstances if the would-be immigrant were not allowed to come to or stay in the United States. There has to be something extra at play.

What counts as extreme financial hardship? ›

Severe Financial Hardship means that the Relevant Person is unable to provide themselves, their family or other dependents with basic necessities such as food, accommodation and clothing, including as a result of family tragedy, financial misfortune, serious illness, impacts of natural disaster and other serious or ...

What is the criteria for a financial hardship? ›

Financial hardship may be deemed to exist when the debtor needs substantially all of his or her current and anticipated income and liquid assets to meet current and anticipated ordinary and necessary living expenses during the projected period of collection.

Does the federal government give out free money? ›

The federal government does not offer grants or 'free money' to individuals to start a business or cover personal expenses, contrary to what you might see online or in the media,” it clearly states on usa.gov. “Websites or other publications claiming to offer “free money from the 'government' are often scams.”

What is it called when you get free money from the government? ›

The free government grants are very popular with the public because the funds given by the government do not have to be paid back. There are certain terms of the federal education grants and you have to follow it.

Who qualifies for widow's pension? ›

If your civil partner, husband or wife has died, you may be eligible to apply to the benefits scheme to receive a lump sum followed by regular payments for up to 18 months. This money can be used to help you manage your bills and cover other vital spending during what is a distressing time.

How much is a widow's benefit? ›

Survivors Benefit Amount

Widow or widower, full retirement age or older — 100% of the deceased worker's benefit amount. Widow or widower, age 60 — full retirement age — 71½ to 99% of the deceased worker's basic amount. Widow or widower with a disability aged 50 through 59 — 71½%.

How much is a widow's Social Security benefit? ›

Widow or widower, full retirement age or older—100% of your benefit amount. Widow or widower, age 60 to full retirement age—71½ to 99% of your basic amount. A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or has a disability—75%.

How long do widow's benefits last? ›

Widows and widowers

Generally, spouses and ex-spouses become eligible for survivor benefits at age 60 — 50 if they are disabled — provided they do not remarry before that age. These benefits are payable for life unless the spouse begins collecting a retirement benefit that is greater than the survivor benefit.

What is a death grant? ›

Pension credit members

If you die after receiving a pension credit and before reaching age 75*, a death grant may be payable. Generally speaking, the death grant is equal to 5 times the pension less the amount already paid.

What is the difference between survivor benefits and widow benefits? ›

The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on age will remain at age 60. Widows or widowers benefits based on age can start any time between age 60 and full retirement age as a survivor.

Who is not eligible for widow pension? ›

Eligibility Criteria for Vidhwa Pension

A widow within the age group of 18 years to 60 years is eligible to apply for widow pension. The family income of the widow is not more than Rs. 10, 000 per month. The widow should not be married again.

Do you get back pay for widow's benefits? ›

If you are a widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse applying for hospital insurance benefits because of a disability, you may be deemed entitled retroactively for up to 12 months prior to the month of filing, even if monthly benefits are not payable because entitlement does not exist before age 60.

How much is the average survivor benefit? ›

In total, recipients of survivor benefits get about $6.68 billion in monthly Social Security payments. That represents an average of $1,088 per month for every surviving family member getting Social Security benefits.

Will survivors benefits increase in 2022? ›

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2022

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022.

Can you collect widows benefits and Social Security at the same time? ›

Social Security will not combine a late spouse's benefit and your own and pay you both. When you are eligible for two benefits, such as a survivor benefit and a retirement payment, Social Security doesn't add them together but rather pays you the higher of the two amounts.

Is there really a $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

You can receive as much as a $16,728 bonus or more every year. A particular formula will determine the money you'll receive in your retirement process. You must know the hacks for generating higher future payments.

Are widows benefits considered SSI? ›

A widow with low income and limited assets may receive payments from the Supplemental Security Income ( SSI ) program in addition to her Social Security benefits, provided the widow is aged 65 or older, or disabled.

Can survivor benefits be taken away? ›

If you work while getting Social Security survivors benefits and are younger than full retirement age, we may reduce your benefits if your earnings exceed certain limits. The full retirement age for survivors is 66 for people born in 1945-1956.

How much can I earn and still receive widow's benefits? ›

If you have reached full retirement age, there is no annual limit on the amount of money you can earn from working. If you are not going to reach full retirement age within the year, you can only earn up to $19,560 (in 2022) before it starts to affect your survivors benefits.

What is the highest Social Security payment? ›

The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $3,345. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $2,364. If you retire at age 70 in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $4,194.

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