How to Prepare for the Death of a Spouse

Naturally, no one enjoys planning for the death of their spouse. Because deaths can occur without warning, planning will help you get through this emotional time. Here are few tips for ensuring that you and your spouse have all your affairs in order.

1. Get a Living Will

When a deceased person has a lot of assets, their death may cause a sudden rift in the family. For example, children and spouses may fight over the estate, whereas estranged/separated spouses may become at war with live-in-partners. To avoid the hassle of having the state or court system determine who gets the assets, consult a lawyer and get a will. Furthermore, if a new family member or new spouse comes into the picture, it is important to make necessary modifications to your will. Failing to make changes may result in ex-spouses inheriting your assets.

2. Life Insurance

Some people mistakenly underestimate the importance of having adequate insurance. Because life insurance reminds people of death, some choose to avoid the subject. However, upon your untimely death, life insurance serves a huge benefit. For starters, it will supplement your income. This way, the surviving spouse and family members will not experience a financial burden. Life insurance is idea for paying funeral expenses, remaining bills, and allowing family members to maintain their standard of living.

3. Obtain a Medical Power of Attorney

When people remarry, there is often a battle between the new spouse and the children from a previous relationship. Although many spouses discuss their final wishes (ex. do not resuscitate, no blood transfusion, etc) some people fail to discuss these wishes with children and other family members. To avoid a conflict during a medical crisis, spouses should obtain a medical power of attorney. This statement will include their final wishes in writing, and designate the spouse as the decision maker during a life or death situation.

4. File Important Documents

Both spouses should have easy assess to important financial documentations such as banking account information, IRA, investment account, mortgage deed, etc. Moreover, other documentations such as wills and insurance policies should be kept in a mutually agreed upon location. This way, if the unexpected occurs, the surviving spouse is able to quickly locate important information.

5. Include Both Names on Property Titles

Some spouses make a practice of only including one person’s name on the car and home. Unfortunately, if your spouse dies, this could start a long legal battle. For this matter, it helps to make sure that all property is listed in both names. Moreover, consider putting both names on all bank accounts.

6. Get Honest about Finances

When coping with the sudden or expected death of a spouse, now’s not the time for surprises. Hence, spouses should be honest regarding their finances. For example, if you have acquired a large amount of credit card debt, or have a large cash reserve in a secret savings account, this information will come to light following your death.

7. Discuss the Children

In step-parent households, spouses must decide who obtains custody of the children. For example, will the surviving step-parent continue to raise the children, or will the biological parent or grandparents assume full custody. Once all parties involved have reached an amicable agreement, parents should include their wishes in a living will.

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