Estate Planning for Widows and Widowers

Estate Planning, Family

Estate Planning for Widows and Widowers

One of the most overwhelming and challenging events in life is the death of a spouse. The days immediately following a spouse’s death are filled with unbearable grief and the painful loss of your loved one’s presence. So many decisions regarding the funeral and finances must be made, and widows and widowers are often left emotionally and physically exhausted. While the widow or widower may receive well-intentioned advice from family and friends following the loss of their spouse, they will need some time to just simply decompress from the shock, and process their grief. After some time has passed, it is important to understand that the matter of estate planning for the widow or widower must be addressed. Certain estate planning documents may need to be created, and previous ones changed. If you experienced the loss of your spouse, we want to first offer our most sincere condolences. We at Ibekwe Law, PLLC are here to visit with you when you are ready to discuss your estate planning needs as a widow or widower.

Estate Planning and Widows/Widowers

While no spouse wants to immediately jump from the raw stages of grief into estate planning, there are some legal documents that simply must be reviewed as soon as the surviving spouse is emotionally able. Visiting with a widow or widower about their estate plan can ensure that their wishes are upheld following their death and that their assets and finances remain protected. Some of the estate planning documents that should be reviewed by a widow or widower include the following:

Durable Power of Attorney

In many cases, a widow or widower will have named their spouse as the person who has the legal authority to handle financial matters if they are unable to do so due to illness or injury. The surviving spouse needs to seriously consider which trusted family member or friend they want to choose as their power of attorney if they are incapacitated to the point that they are no longer able to sign documents or make decisions on their own behalf.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney, sometimes called a health care proxy, is the person that can make medical and end-of-life decisions on a person’s behalf when they are unable to do so for themselves due to incapacity. In many cases, a surviving spouse has their deceased spouse listed as their medical power of attorney. It is incredibly important that a widow or widower choose who they want to act on their behalf in these important (and often life and death) matters.

Medical Release Forms

The United States has very serious and strict privacy laws regarding how and to whom medical information is distributed. If a surviving spouse has only listed their deceased spouse on HIPAA release forms or for the release of related-medical documents, the family of the widow or widower may not have the ability to know or discuss serious medical emergencies with doctors or healthcare professionals if the event arises.

Beneficiary Designations

Most of the beneficiary designations from estate planning documents would have listed the surviving spouse as the beneficiary of many of the financial assets. As a result, the widow or widower now needs to consider whether or not they wish to create new beneficiary designations for the remaining legal documents regarding property and assets.

Last Will and Testaments and Trusts

These common estate planning documents will likely have listed the widow or the widower as the beneficiary to many of the financial assets or property. It is always beneficial to have an estate planning attorney review these documents to make sure that they are still a proper fit for the widow or widower. Additionally, it is important to note that the surviving spouse has other options, such as “disclaiming” their inheritance and allowing a child to receive those assets.

Helpful Resources for Widows and Widowers

If you are considering alterations to an estate plan as a widow or widower, you may feel overwhelmed, especially if you are still feeling significant amounts of grief regarding your recent loss. Some of the following are some helpful resources for widows and widowers regarding estate planning, their finances, and their future decisions following their spouse’s death.

  • Learn more about the Probate Court and Legal Information in Texas.
  • Contact your life insurance agent to make sure that you fill out the paperwork to receive any life insurance proceeds (take caution, however, as many life insurance agents will manipulate new widows and widowers to purchase additional insurance products).
  • Contact the Social Security Administration to see if you qualify to receive any survivor benefits.
  • Contact the Veterans Administration to see if you qualify to receive any survivor benefits.
  • Contact all of your banks and financial institutions (credit cards, loan companies, etc.) to make sure to have all accounts retitled into your name.
  • Cancel any memberships or payments that were for your deceased spouse alone (gym memberships, professional association memberships, etc.)

Consider having a loved one work with you during this process as two sets of eyes are always better than one. Take time before you make any large purchases or serious life decisions. Grief can change the way people process information and it is important to take the time you need to make the decisions that will be best for your specific situation. Additionally, consider visiting with an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with any matters that may impact the distributions of your assets upon your death.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today

If your spouse passed away, we want to first offer our most heartfelt condolences. We understand that this is a difficult and challenging time for you emotionally. When you are ready, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you about ensuring that your estate planning documents match your wishes. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney at Ibekwe Law, PLLC at 512-505-2753 for peace of mind regarding your estate planning needs. We are here for you when you are ready and need our advice and help.