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What To Do When a Spouse Dies?

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It’s easy to overlook an important task after a spouse or other loved one passes away – like retitling assets. It’s a little thing with big ramifications. Follow this checklist to help make a challenging time less confusing.

When a spouse dies, there are pains and challenges on multiple levels that can surface and resurface while grieving.

The death of a life companion, confidant, and trusted love can become all-consuming. When someone you love passes, new matters need to be addressed.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “A Checklist for What to Do (and NOT Do) After Someone Dies” says that it’s vital to handle these matters today and not put them off until some date in the future usually never comes until it becomes a crisis.

When a spouse dies and leaves their assets to the surviving spouse, many people make a mistake: the surviving spouse often leaves the assets they inherited in their joint names or in their deceased spouse’s name.

The surviving spouse’s health may also begin to decline as the years pass. The spouse frequently only survives a few years after the first decedent spouse.

At the death of the first spouse, there is often little to do legally, as often assets are titled jointly with rights of survivorship, and retirement plans and life insurance usually pass to the survivor by beneficiary designations.

For assets that remain in the decedent’s name alone, probate should be instituted, but often isn’t. When that happens, and the original spouse’s assets were not retitled, it can become an even more complicated process for the heirs.

This is how a typical scenario can play out when a spouse dies: the father dies and leaves everything to the mother.

Mom calls everyone she can think of but misses several vital matters. She then passes and the heirs now, while in a state of mourning, have to try to settle her affairs.

The issue is that they will now have a much more complicated task ahead of them than Mom did when she settled Dad’s affairs.

They’ll have several more steps to go through – because the mother never retitled some of the father’s original assets.

Mom unknowingly made a difficult job harder on her heirs by not getting everything transferred when her husband passed.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney when a spouse dies to ensure your assets are titled correctly, and the proper people can handle your affairs in the future.

Reference: Kiplinger (Aug. 24, 2022) “A Checklist for What to Do (and NOT Do) After Someone Dies”