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ESTATE PLANNING FOR SPOUSES

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Planning in case of the death of a spouse is an unpleasant subject that many try to avoid. However, it is necessary to ensure that the death of your spouse will not come as a financial burden to you and your family. It is important to make note of important documents and information to ensure that the passing of your spouse’s assets will be done in a thorough and effective manner. 

Asset Distribution

When planning in case of death, communication between partners is key. Being aware of all your spouse’s bank accounts will be helpful to ensure that all potential financial issues are being communicated and being discussed. If your spouse has a personal own bank account, you should have access to all the information in case of an emergency. Any and all joint stocks, singular stocks, bonds, or mutual funds should be discussed and both parties should have access all the accounts.

Knowing how the insurance company policy covers you and your spouse is important. Make sure that all information pertaining to the insurance policy is accessible to both you and your spouse. It will be up to the surviving spouse to do complete all paperwork and the details after death.

If your spouse has a 401k, IRA, and/or retirement pension, you must take note of the account number and contact information for all accounts. Another important thing to remember is each other’s social security number. The requirements may vary for different retirement plans, for example, some plans require written consent from your spouse. It is important to fully understand the benefits you are entitled to after the passing of your spouse.

Health Care

The health care wishes of your spouse are typically outlined by a living will. A living will is a document that dictates a person’s wishes regarding life support decisions what can be carried out by a power of attorney. Understanding your spouse’s needs and wishes regarding artificial life support will helped you be prepared in the event in which you have to make health care decisions for the other person.

Last wills ensure that your partner’s final wishes about the separation of their assets will be taken care of. The document will relieve a lot of complications and clearly outline your partner’s intentions. As a married couple, you should plan your estate together. It is also important to note that you may have assets that are held with joint ownership. Assets that are held with rights of survivorship, such as real estate or bank accounts will pass to the surviving spouse directly.

Married couples may also consider creating a joint tenancy deed to skip probate. Probate is a time consuming process in which the probate court distributes assets according to the will of the deceased. When a will enters probate, the process of distributing assets will take a long amount of time to complete. A joint tenancy deed allows jointly owned property to be transferred to the surviving spouse automatically.

Financial Durable Power of Attorney

The financial durable power of attorney is a document which appoints an attorney-in-fact to handle all financial transactions on your behalf when you are unable to. Typically, one spouse will appoint the other as their attorney-in-fact to handle financial tasks such as depositing checks, filing tax returns, or handle your investments. Without a financial durable power of attorney document, the court will use an extensive process to decide who will act on your behalf. This can cause disputes between family members, therefore it is important for you to personally appoint an attorney-in-fact.

It is important to know where your spouse keeps important financial and personal documents. Such documents can include wills, employee benefit records, tax returns, property records, deeds, bank books, credit card information, social security cards, veteran’s benefits and life insurance policies. At the time of your spouse’s death, you will be responsible for filling out all the necessary paperwork and contacting all insurance and retirement accounts. It is essential that you have access to all the information necessary to help reduce the stress and negative impacts of the death of a loved one.

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