Don’t Let People Use Your Grief to Take Advantage of You

Debra L. Morrison

Debra L. Morrison

Founder & Chief Navigator
Women Navigating Finances, LLC

Grief Makes You Vulnerable

Grief breaks you, shatters you into a thousand pieces, really. While society applauds those who seem to be taking their grief well, the truth is you feel very confused, disorganized, and vulnerable during this time. You’re not thinking about anything but the person or things, and the dreams you lost, in an instant. Yet even (or perhaps especially) PRIOR to one’s death, in the case of illness, loved ones grieve plenty! And a protracted state of grief is particularly wearisome for the care-giver, partner and/or children.

When you’re in this state, you’re less likely to pay attention to scam artists who wish to take advantage of your more vulnerable position. To sidestep this issue, make a point of telling anyone who wants to deal with your finances (aside from your Fee-Only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CPA or lawyer, non of whom will SELL you any investments or insurance policies, but rather will give you advice on matters and next steps, as the time is appropriate) that you’re not making any major decisions for several months. If they pressure you to move forward with a purchase or to give them money, then you can be fairly sure that they don’t have your best interests at heart.

Common Scams

It’s almost cliché that the grieving widow or widower gets taken by the scam artist. Somehow, these people find out about your situation and hone in on relieving you of your money. That’s why it’s important to tell the people close to you about any types of weird emails or phone calls that you’re getting. Phone and email scams are so dangerous because there are so many different kinds. Some of the most common email and phone scams are fakes calls from the IRS, lottery scams, family or friends in danger, bank fraud calls, and charity scams. Again, having a conversation with people close to you will help you spot these danger spots when you simply can’t.

Inheritance Fights

Sadly, it’s your own family and friends who could present you with financial dangers when you’re grieving. You may find that your children want some of your spouse’s things that you’re not ready to give up yet or may want to rehash old arguments in order to get the upper hand. You may also find that they will contest the validity of legal documents, like a family trust or will.

If you are grieving PRIOR to your loved one’s death, the best way to deal with this possibility is to deal with it ahead of time. If you’re worried that your family will try to take your money or other valuables when you lose your spouse/partner/loved one, then be transparent about what goes to whom. Better yet, if you can give items of value away before the loss happens, there won’t be anything to fight over, and in turn, you’ll be less vulnerable.


Grief makes us vulnerable to the vagaries of life and unfortunately, to scam artists. Everyone experiences grief at some time or another, so it’s not a matter of avoiding it and the vulnerabilities that come with it (including the financial ones). Rather, it’s best to have a plan of action for when your times of grief come. That way, you’ll have dealt with at least SOME of the difficulties before they arise, allowing yourself to focus more on your own grieving process, which is complex enough on so many other levels.

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