Your passing will likely be the most devastating event of your spouse’s life. Not only will they have to continue dealing with life’s normal routines, but they will be inundated with planning and tasks that require their immediate attention. The death of a spouse will leave the other spouse emotionally, spiritually, and financially devastated.
This events stress will be multiplied if your surviving spouse either did not play an active role in the household financials, or you did not help to organize and plan your assets and estate.
- Summon Help – Your spouse should be in the position to call on your households “financial support team”. This team could include your accountant, estate lawyer, financial planner, and insurance agent. This group of individuals can help your spouse attend to details when they’re least able to. Knowing your spouse has a team of professionals to help in the event of your passing can be a great stress reliever.
- Gather Documents – The succession process (aka probate) starts with an inventory of all your assets (personal property, bank & investment accounts, vehicles, house, jewelry, etc.) which will be filed in court. Your spouse will have to provide these assets in probate court. Knowing these documents have to be accessed and given to your estate lawyer puts you in the position to plan ahead. You and your spouse should maintain a filing system for access in general circumstances, but in your passing as well. Here are a few things needed.
- Bank and investment accounts (latest annual statement)
- Loan and credit accounts (last annual statement)
- Property titles (home, car, land, etc.)
- Taxes (previous returns, W2’s, 1099’s, etc.)
- Insurance policies (health, life, etc.)
- Estate planning documents (wills, power of attorney, & trusts)
- Social security card
- Certificates (birth and marriage)
- Company benefits documents
- Military discharge papers if applicable
- Computer access and password login information
Maintaining an organized system of documents will help your spouse obtain the documents needed for your succession as well as closing various accounts.
- Meet With Estate Lawyer – Out of the entire “financial support team” as stated above, an estate lawyer is the quarterback in this process. Not just because we provide legal estate planning services, but the truth is that every aspect of the succession process relies on legal documents and processes. When you select Henri Dufresne and Dufresne Law Firm to assist with estate planning and succession processes, ensure that your spouse has contact information and any estate planning documents organized and ready to review and execute. Knowing exactly what to do with assets and not having to worry about the probate process will allow your spouse to properly grieve your passing.
- Notify Companies & Agencies – Bills need to stop, obtain assistance if able, and most importantly, make claims. Your spouse will need to make sure that they contact companies and organizations you were involved with or had policies with to ensure beneficiaries receive the appreciate benefits. Claim forms will need to be filled along with providing copies of the death certificate. It is a good idea to get about a dozen or two copies.
When your spouse files a claim, they may have choices regarding how to receive money. Knowing the options ahead of time would be a great way to plan, but ensure your spouse knows how to find the options available to them.
Here is a list of organizations that will most likely need to be contacted.
- Life insurance company (claim death benefit)
- Be mindful of purchasing additional life insurance policies or investing in annuities. Seek the advice from a secondary financial team member.
- Health insurance company (terminate insurance)
- Employer benefits (bonuses, unpaid vacation, stock options, etc.)
- Bank & Investment companies (seek name changes and rollovers)
- Loan & Credit companies (close accounts and arrange paying off debt)
- Credit reporting agencies (give death notice to avoid identify theft)
- DMV (cancel drivers license)
- Other memberships (professional, Greek, veteran affairs, etc.)
- Know Income & Expenses – By this time in the process, your spouse should have a fairly good idea of the one-time income, ongoing income, debt pay-offs, and ongoing expenses to continue living. Your spouse should create a new household budget of all income and expenses and get the help from your financial planner to get these things straight.
- Meet with Financial Planner & Accountant – Just like your death involves legal processes, it for sure involves money as well. Your financial planner can assist your spouse in ensuring they and your children are set up with financial accounts as planned. As stated above, they can also assist with a new household budget. Your accountant can work with your spouse and financial planner to ensure proper tax obligations or restructuring takes place as well.
No one wants to leave their spouse or family in a messy situation after their passing. The proper planning and formation of a financial team can greatly help your spouse know exactly what to do if you die. Help those questions get answered before the fact becomes a reality.
It is imperative that you take proactive steps in formulating a solid estate plan to make sure your spouse and children are properly taken care of. Additionally, estate planning is not just for the wealthy, all families, no matter the size of their assets should have at a minimum a will, living will, and durable power of attorney as part of their estate plan.
Contact Dufresne Law firm to discuss our estate planning services to ensure your spouse has a great estate lawyer on their team ready to work for them.