Estate planning steps to take after the death of a spouse

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2021 | Estate Planning

The death of your spouse represented a crushing blow. Despite experiencing a tailspin in your life, you must confront a new challenge of issues and make crucial decisions. Besides funeral plans, your mental health and grief, you also must take another look at your estate plans.

You have been responsible for creating an estate plan with a will. Now, there are some significant changes and additions that you must make to those legal documents and related matters.

Durable power of attorney, beneficiary designations

After the death of a spouse, here are some crucial aspects in estate planning that will need prompt attention:

  • Medical power of attorney: In many cases, a spouse names his or her spouse for this role in which another person makes health care decisions if you are unable to do so. You likely named an alternate person for this role, also referred to as a health care proxy. However, with the decedent as your health care agent, you have some decisions to make. Is the alternate still the right choice?
  • Durable power of attorney: Once again, you likely named your deceased spouse as the person who will make all financial decisions for you in case you are incapacitated. The role includes signing legal documents, managing bank and investment accounts and paying bills. You need to find a trustworthy replacement. If you do not, then expect a potential court battle.
  • HIPAA authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act includes strict rules pertaining to the release of medical information. Your spouse likely was given the legal right to obtain your health care information and talk with physicians. Even though you still can make your own health care decisions, understand that providing HIPAA authorization remains useful.
  • Wills and trusts of you and your late spouse: Make a thorough review of the terms of these documents. On occasion, a spouse may include a clause allowing the surviving spouse a “second look” as to whether the estate plan continues to be an appropriate fit.
  • Beneficiary designations: Careful review and updates likely are necessary for retirement funds such as IRAs and 401(k)s, life insurance policies along with mutual funds and bank accounts.

It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and confused by the death of your spouse. Despite this turn of events, you still must muster the strength to carry on. There are many important tasks that need addressing, and your estate plan is among them.