Planning for the Surviving Spouse
By Bryan Montana
By Bryan Montana
So much of estate planning and Elder Law revolves around uncertainty. Nobody knows how long they will live. Will they end up in a nursing home? Will the federal estate tax change? Will Ohio bring back the estate tax? While we may not know the answers, we all know for certain that one day we will leave this earth. If you’re married, that means one of you will likely survive the other. A properly constructed estate plan considers the needs of the surviving spouse and adapts throughout a person’s lifetime.
Asset & Account Restructuring
Upon the death of the first spouse, a number of things must be done after the funeral. Real estate needs to be retitled, as do bank accounts, vehicles, IRAs, 401(k)s and other investments. A proper estate plan accounts for these issues before the first spouse passes away. Doing so makes it easy and cost-effective for the surviving spouse.
Retitling is not the only financial task that needs to be completed. Life insurance, retirement accounts, vehicles and bank accounts often have beneficiary designations which must be updated.
Needs of the Surviving Spouse
So you understand that assets and accounts need to be restructured. But what about making ends meet? The surviving spouse often faces a reduction in income. If both spouses were drawing social security, the surviving spouse typically now only receives the larger of the two benefits. If the deceased spouse received a pension, the options elected at his or her retirement may significantly affect the surviving spouse’s income.
As life changes so must your Estate Plan
As you age your estate plan needs to change. The wills you signed when you had young children no longer accomplish the goals you have in retirement and beyond. Families change, laws change, and your estate plan needs to keep pace. The death of the first spouse is a significant occurrence. Often new wills or trusts are necessary.
Additionally, the deceased spouse can no longer act as your power of attorney or executor. It may be time to update those documents to name someone different to handle those important duties. Reviewing the beneficiaries in your will, trust or other accounts to make sure they’re still in line with their wishes should be completed as well. It’s also important to note that planning options may be available to the surviving spouse that were not available when he or she was married.
To learn more about what you can do to make sure your surviving spouse is taken care of after you are gone, contact an AlerStallings attorney to arrange for a complementary phone consultation. A small amount of planning now can save you and your family a large amount of time, money and headache later.