Wings for Widows Shows Way Through Financial and Legal Complexities
By Rachel M. Anderson, Contributing Writer
(Bloomington, MN) - There is something a lot of people will need to deal with at some point in their lives, but nobody wants to think about it: what to do after the death of a spouse.
According to the National Census conducted in 2010, there are an estimated 224,775 widows and widowers living in Minnesota. The majority of them, 82 percent, or 184,628, are women. In other words, there are four times more widows than widowers.
Liane Laurion, 65, of Bloomington, Minn., lost her husband, Dave, in February 2017. “He died suddenly of Atrial fibrillation,” she explains. Dave Laurion was a financial advisor and left Liane in good shape financially. After Dave’s death, her husband’s colleague, Chris Bentley, and her son-in-law helped her sort through her financial records, but that was just the first step. It took another nine months until Liane felt confident about her financial future.
“I attended a grief support group at my church and met with other women who were recently widowed,” she says. “We took a 12-week class and got to know each other well. We trusted each other.” The group shared details about common struggles they were dealing with – things like how best to manage the bills, if they should remain in their home, and how to shut off the water in the winter.
“One day I shared with Chris what we were talking about in my group and the two of us started to understand there was a need for widows to have extra help. I realized that while my group trusted each other, the answers we were providing one another probably weren’t accurate. We weren’t professionals. But what other option did we have? We needed a safe place to get the answers to our questions,” says Laurion. “We didn’t want to be taken advantage of.”
From that conversation sprung the idea for Wings for Widows, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the only public charity in the United States providing pro bono financial counseling to new widows.
“The loss of a spouse is the first loss. Many widows must also cope with the loss of her co-decision maker, the loss of income, and the loss of her children’s father. This compounding loss, on top of the overwhelming grief, fear and uncertainty can have a paralyzing effect,” says Bentley. “We help them move forward.”
“Wings for Widows fills an important need for new widows,” he continues. “We help steer her through the financial and legal complexities of early widowhood. We relieve financial stress and worry so that the widow can focus on her and her family’s transition from loss and heartache to a future filled with hope and possibility. What we do is critically important to the grieving process.”
When a widow begins working with Wings for Widows, she is met by her dedicated team of “Angels” who will work and remain with her for the entire engagement. The first team member is a Certified Financial Planner® professional, knowledgeable about a wide range of financial topics. The second team member is a widow - someone who has walked the same painful path – who also serves as the case manager. Both are volunteers with one goal in mind: to help the widow gain control of her finances. “The sooner a widow can get her arms wrapped around her finances the sooner she can get control of the other aspects of her life,” says Bentley.
“At the core of what we offer is a program that addresses the financial concerns specific to widows.” Wings for Widows helps widows Get Organized, Get Prioritized & Get Stabilized™, and the widow receives Action Plans after each of the three phases. “The widow is encouraged to complete the action items herself and with each completed action she gains clarity, control and confidence,” he continues. “It’s very empowering.”
“We meet widows where they are and we work at their pace,” says Bentley. Wings for Widows may work with one widow a few months after the funeral or they may not work with a widow for twelve or more months after her loss. “Our process is accommodative to widows across the spectrum,” says Bentley. “The bottom line is they receive the financial and legal counseling they need, when they need it, at no cost and with no strings.”
Cynthia Korpela of Lakeville, Minn., was one of the first widows to go through the program. She lost her husband, Daryl, in June 2017. He died as a result of heart failure, 10 months after suffering a stroke during surgery.
“My husband was self-employed and I was his bookkeeper,” she explains. “After his stroke, I had started shutting down his business. After he died I knew what I had to do from a common sense standpoint. I had to get a death certificate and change the accounts over to my name, but I wasn’t sure I was doing everything necessary. When I was introduced to Chris, he walked me through a very thorough assessment of my current situation and helped me realize that I hadn’t done everything I should have. So, it was really valuable from that standpoint.”
Korpela’s work with Wings for Widows helped her determine how much she can afford to spend every year now that she’s retired, and also how best to invest her money. Korpela is now a volunteer with Wings for Widows and Laurion, a Wings for Widows board member, leads their volunteer group.
To learn if you, or someone you know, is a good candidate for the financial counseling offered by Wings for Widows, take the brief Needs Survey on the their website, WingsforWidows.us/needssurvey. Wings for Widows is based in Minneapolis. At this time the organization is exclusively working with widows in the eight counties in and around the Twin Cities, but intends to offer services nationwide in the future.
Available Photos: Chris Bentley, Cynthia Korpela, Liane Laurion, Wings for Widows logo
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