If you recently lost your spouse, you are likely dealing with many emotions – grief, disbelief, and shock, to name a few. In addition to facing this incredibly difficult experience, you probably now have the responsibility of managing the estate and ensuring your financial security.
We’ll explore some of the steps you should take immediately so that your affairs are taken care of from an estate planning perspective.
1. Get several copies of the death certificate
One of the first steps you should take as a surviving spouse is to obtain several copies of your spouse’s death certificate. They will be essential as you navigate legal and financial matters in the upcoming months. You may need them for closing bank accounts, selling property, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. By having multiple copies, you will be sure to have the necessary documentation in hand when you need it.
2. Review your spouse’s estate plan
Even if you believe you know everything about your spouse’s financies, you will want to take some time to review all of their legal and financial documents. These can provide information on the distribution of assets and provide a complete picture of your own financial future.
It can also help ensure that you are prepared for any unexpected events that may arise.
You will need to inform the appropriate parties of your spouse’s passing. This includes Social Security Administration, insurance providers, credit card companies, banks, credit bureaus, and anywhere else your spouse held assets, both separate and joint accounts.
Not only does this assist with a smooth transfer of assets, but it also helps prevent unauthorized access to the accounts, fraud, or identity theft.
4. Review your own estate plan
If you and your spouse had a joint estate plan, now is the time to review and update it. Many couples name their spouse for the financial and medical powers of attorney, executor, and beneficiary. If that is your situation, you will need to revise your estate plan.
You might also need to change the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Furthermore, if you and your spouse had joint ownership of assets, you may want to update your estate plan to include “transfer on death” instructions.
5. Understand the tax implications
You should know how taxes will impact your inheritance and your shared financial assets. Proper planning can help ease tax liabilities down the road. California has protections in place for widows and widowers, often referred to as widow’s rights.
Navigating the complexities of an estate plan can be difficult, especially when you are grieving over the loss of your spouse. Working with a professional estate planning attorney can help make the task less daunting. Our attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri have the experience you need. They can guide you through the process and help you understand the legal and financial documentation and tax implications.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Contact us at 408-553-0801 for a free consultation, and let us help you find peace of mind during this difficult time.
Disclaimer: this article does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.