Estate planning after a spouse dies

The grief and sadness that comes after a spouse dies is overwhelming. After years of marriage, it’s going to take time to process the loss of your partner. However, there are going to be a number of legal requirements and financial obligations that can’t wait as well as estate planning considerations and decisions that have to be made.

Hopefully, you and your spouse spent time planning together for the day when one or the other would be faced with making important financial and estate planning decisions after the other has passed. The amount of paperwork necessary to handle all of the personal and legal details following the death of a spouse can be very stressful.  However, being prepared beforehand, can help to reduce the amount of time and stress needed to take care of these details.

To ensure a smooth transition of your spouse’s assets and other resources, it’s important to secure the services of reputable estate planning attorney to help you through the process of settling your spouse’s estate.

It can be complicated

At the first meeting with your estate planning attorney, you’ll discuss your role in your spouse’s estate plan.  You and your attorney will review the wills and/or trusts or other legal vehicles contained in your spouse’s estate plan in order to make clear your specific legal and/or fiduciary role in carrying out their wishes. If there is a need for probate, your attorney will begin the process as soon as possible.

The best case scenario is that all of your spouse’s assets have been placed in a living trust, in joint tenancy, or using beneficiary designations as in the case of life insurance policies so that the probate process can be avoided.

An estate planning attorney can help you with other tasks such as taking stock of any outstanding credit or debts that need to be paid. Credit card accounts will need to be cancelled and your spouse’s name removed from any joint bank accounts or joint credit card accounts.

When it comes to estate planning after a spouse dies, updates to an existing plan that you and your spouse had created before their death will most likely need to be made. If no estate plan was created before your spouse’s death, you will want to create one with the help of your estate planning attorney.

If you and your spouse worked with other professionals such as a tax or financial planner or CPA, consulting with your advisors is important to ensure that your whole “team” is on the same page through the process of settling the estate and creating a new or updated estate plan for yourself.

Getting the help you need

No one can truly be prepared for the loss of their partner. And the simplest of tasks, such as the location of important documents, like a living trust, can be overwhelming as you grieve. 

If you are unable to locate your spouse’s original living trust documents, learn more about how to find a living trust in California.  Contact the Law Office of David W. Foley, estate planning attorney, for more information.