• Everyone grieves differently. Be prepared for a range of reactions.
  • Be sure to advice the family to report the death immediately and to seek advice on medical and Social Security benefits.
  • Avoid taking sides, stay focused and muster as much compassion and patience as possible.

One of life’s hardest transitions is losing a loved one. This is extraordinarily difficult when the surviving parent is forced to move against their will for health or financial reasons. I’m going to share what I’ve learned from loss, and hopefully it will help others in similar situations.

When you or your clients face this situation, you can be there to provide both comfort as well as much needed expertise on coping with the situation.

On Dec. 31, my husband’s stepfather, who was deeply loved by everyone in our family, passed away. My mother-in-law is legally blind and has always been adamant about staying in her home and aging in place. Here are eight lessons learned as we have gone through this journey.

1. Grieving is different for everyone

As we were lining up caregivers, imagine our surprise when my mother-in-law declared that she no longer wanted to stay in her home of 30 years and was off to live with her oldest son in Colorado just nine days later.

Everyone grieves differently. For some, their home has too many memories, especially when they are alone. The reasons for staying become much less compelling when many of their old friends have moved away or died.

2. Staying in the home: is it affordable?

There’s little more heartbreaking than watching a parent or grandparent begging to stay in their home and being forced to move for financial reasons. This situation most often occurs when the death results in a reduction of retirement benefits.

In other instances, it might be that the estate was not set up properly, leaving the survivor to pay capital gains tax on their spouse’s half of the property.

This is one situation where you can be extremely helpful. A reverse purchase mortgage can help anyone who is 62 or older stay in their current home or purchase a new home and have no payment, provided that the person has approximately 50 percent down in equity.

According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) allows seniors age 62 or older to relocate to other geographical areas to be closer to family members or to downsize into homes that meet their physical needs.

The beauty here is that the survivor can meet the tax obligation, have no mortgage payments and still stay in the property. The interest due on the loan is simply tacked on to the principal. Interest rates are slightly less than conforming fixed and adjustable rate financing.

3. Finding A Place for Mom

One of the toughest calls the family will have to make is placing a loved one into assisted living or Alzheimer’s care.

A Place for Mom provides national assistance in this process including in-home service, making alterations to a family member’s home to accommodate a disabled loved one and working through the various benefit programs available.

4. Dealing with benefits

Depending what type of benefits the survivor has, be prepared for Social Security to take back the payment made this month unless the person who died lived to the end of the month.

There can also be dangerous lapses in medical coverage as well. Be sure to advise the family to report the death immediately and to seek advice on what benefits are impacted as well as how to sort out any changes in coverage.

5. Finding the right broker outside your area

There are options here. One is to go through ReferralExchange.com, where your client will be matched with three agents, and you are guaranteed a 25 percent referral fee at closing.

Alternatively, search the agent reviews on sites such as LinkedIn, RealSatisfied.com, QualityService.com, Yelp and Zillow.

You’re looking for a top producer who knows the area and has plenty of people saying how wonderful and patient the agent is, especially when there are difficulties.

6. Packing up the house

As people age, many tuck money away in unusual places. Be sure to remind the family members to check in pockets and every file and envelope, as well as anywhere else money, jewels or other valuables could be stashed.

Be on the lookout for insurance policies, old bank accounts, deeds, tax information and other important documents.

If the homeowner has to go into assisted living, let the family know that it’s important to allow their loved one to choose what they want to take with them.

Give the person who is mourning their loss and moving as much control over the situation as possible. This includes picking what they take with them to their new living quarters. Check out these tips on how to get rid of excess stuff.

7. Flaring tempers can happen over nothing

When people loose a loved one, there can be guilt, remorse, anger and regret, all of which are rolled into grief and the mourning process. It takes little to trigger a major argument or cause hard feelings. Be the calm in the middle of the storm.

8. Dumping your grief on the survivor is a bad idea

This might be the most important lesson. When someone loses a loved one, well-meaning people typically start sharing what they went through when they lost a loved one.

The person facing the loss doesn’t need to hear someone else’s verbal processing about their past loss. Instead, be the person who offers to clean the house, help with the cooking or the one who is willing to just listen.

If you are called in to help the family with the sale or evaluate the estate, be prepared for strange dynamics.

This can include family members making off with items that were supposed to have been willed to someone else and conflicts about the distribution of cash as well as whether you should even be hired.

The key point here is to avoid taking sides and to stay completely focused on doing the tasks you are required to do while mustering as much compassion and patience as possible.

I hope that what we have gone through can help you or assist you in helping your clients.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs atwww.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent

Email Bernice Ross.

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