Saying good-bye to your beloved spouse is unimaginable, and yet it happens every day. Make sure that you are both prepared for the business side to help the surviving spouse and family.
Once the basics of estate planning are covered—a will, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will and any trusts—it’s time to dig into the day-to-day details of life that the surviving spouse will need to deal with. In “How to prepare for loss of a spouse,” the Idaho Statesman outlines some of the information that you need to share now, so that a grieving spouse will be better equipped to manage the challenges of life after one of you passes.
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.
These kinds of preparations and conversations are a difficult, but necessary part of a loving partnership. Having another member of the family present for these conversations may be useful, just as you would bring a family member or trusted friend to an important doctor’s visit. Sometimes extreme emotions make it hard to process information, so a second set of ears can be helpful.
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