You certainly know about the basic estate plan documents, such as a will, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, and revocable living trust. While all of these documents are important, there is more one can do to prepare for the emotional consequences of a spouse’s death. The Idaho Statesman article, “How to prepare for loss of a spouse,” suggests some simple steps to take now that can save you some heartache in the future. This is even more crucial when grief and confusion can daze the surviving spouse and lead to financial issues.
Talk with Your Spouse. Keep your spouse up-to-date and share your passwords and other critical information, as well as where to locate them. Speak with your estate planning attorney, so if only one of you handles finances, the other will be prepared. Along the same lines, be open and transparent and be sure to title your accounts properly so you know which assets will be passed directly to your spouse (like your home that lists both of you on the title) and those assets that’ll be transferred via beneficiary designation. You should also review your beneficiary designations for IRA accounts and other retirement plans.
Bank Accounts. You should open bank accounts jointly so that you don’t keep a spouse from accessing funds to pay bills and final expenses. The same thing applies to credit card accounts and utility bills, because the card company or utility typically won’t even talk to you, if you’re not named on the account.
Social Security. It’s a hard to claim these benefits when your spouse has just passed, but making the right choice can make a big difference in the benefits you receive over your lifetime. It’s the same deal with a pension plan with a survivor-benefit option.
Budgets. Both spouses should get to know the household budget and your monthly operating expenses.
Preparing in advance for your spouse can make a big difference in how you take on the stress at that time.
Reference: Idaho Statesman (November 29, 2016) “How to prepare for loss of a spouse”