When spouses die, no matter if it is suddenly or anticipated, a great deal of the subsequent estate planning is spent on administering the deceased person’s estate rather than focusing on the needs of the surviving spouse. It is critical for surviving spouses to understand what steps should be taken to make sure that their interests are protected after the death of a loved one. This article reviews some of the important estate planning steps that surviving spouses should remember to follow.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney designates one person to act on your behalf for financial matters during the course of your lifetime. In many cases, spouses will name one another as the appointed agent so that one spouse can make decisions on behalf of the other in case of emergencies. These documents are particularly important because events that result in disability and incapacity are frequently unexpected. In the case of a surviving spouse, it is often important to take steps to make sure that someone other than the deceased spouse is designated as the appointed agent.
Health Care Proxies
Health care proxies (which are sometimes called medical powers of attorney) are used whenever a person is unable to communicate health care decisions for him or herself. If a deceased person was named as the health care agent, the alternate agent becomes the new health care agent. It is important to carefully select who will act as the alternate agent. In many situations, health care proxies are given to primary care physicians and are on file with hospitals, which means that it is critical to make sure that any updated health care proxies are also given to medical care providers.
Wills and Trusts
A surviving spouse should make sure to review wills and trusts because significant life events can substantially change important details of an estate plan. If plans change, you should also make certain to reflect this change in agenda in your will. Because wills involve a complicated body of laws and failure to properly reflect your wishes can foil your plans, it is often critical to obtain the assistance of a skilled attorney in these situations.
A surviving spouse must make certain to review all beneficiary designation forms for various accounts including those related to brokerage, life insurance, and retirement. In some situations, these accounts might still be in the deceased spouse’s name. It is critical to make sure that beneficiary designations are properly updated to reflect your current wishes about how your estate should be administered.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Each couple has unique needs, but there are some important estate planning documents that should often be taken into consideration. While it can be hard to know how to best proceed, it is often critical to obtain the assistance of a seasoned estate planning attorney. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule an initial free case evaluation.