Are You Widowed? You Need To Plan Your Estate Too!

Losing a spouse can involve some of the most painful experiences, difficult hardships, and distressing emotions.  Often times, the remaining spouse feels bombarded with overwhelming and newfound decisions, ranging from heartfelt personal dilemmas all the way to crucial financial planning matters.  Despite the emotional difficulty in handling personal finances after the passing of a loved one, engaging in estate planning is not only important, but rather a necessity.

Preferably, before death, spouses should seek professional assistance from an attorney to help draft wills that clearly express how the estate would be expected to pass.  In order to protect the survivor, spouses must be extremely clear with their wishes long before illness or death. For example, spouses should ensure that all wills and life insurance policies are up-to-date with the names of the proper beneficiaries.  This will prevent unnecessary, yet costly court costs or perhaps even money passing to an individual that was never intended.

Furthermore, couples with young children should ensure that guardianship matters are covered with their attorney. The guardian can be a friend or family member who has the time and resources to uphold the child’s best interest. It is recommended to inform the selected guardian ahead of time to prevent any possible confusion.  In addition, each spouse should hold a bank account in his or her own name.  Within each account, the total balance should be able to cover any expenses after death in the event that joint bank accounts are frozen in probate, which lasts an average of six to nine months.

Each spouse should include a power of attorney designation.  The power of attorney is the person who would make decisions on your behalf if you were unable to do so yourself.  When selecting a power of attorney, one should understand that this person will have the responsibility to make both vital financial and medical decisions.  Consequently, the power of attorney should be carefully selected and formally included in your estate plan.

Due to the complexities of estate planning, one must rely on experts, such as estate lawyers and financial advisors, to help make sure that the process goes smoothly. However, spouses must remember to plan for the emotional turmoil of losing a significant other as well.  In order to prevent a spouse from making poor decisions following the death of a husband or wife, both spouses should ensure that they have a strong network of friends and family to rely on in the aftermath of a death crisis. Cinda Collins, senior vice president and financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management says, “In a state of grieving, it can be very easy to forget things.  Bring someone along with you who can take notes and remind you of things you should be doing.”

Losing a spouse can be one of the most stressful times in life.  Here, at Chepenik Trushin LLP, we can provide spouses with the necessary services to ensure that all estate planning matters are handled in an effective and efficient manner.  Planning now can save your spouse the unnecessary aggravation and financial burden: like the expression says, “a stitch in time saves nine.”

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