Estate Planning for Surviving a Spouse or Partner

For many of us, it may be even more difficult to think about the loss of a spouse or partner than it is to face our own mortality. 

However, you still need to do estate planning for surviving your spouse or partner, because one of you will most likely predecease the other. If you are the survivor, your loved one would want you to be safe and secure when he or she is not there with you.

While the details will depend on the facts of your unique situation, there are some overarching concepts that may apply to most couples. A California estate planning attorney can guide you through an evaluation of the legal protections available and draft your documents for you. 

Consider the Children

If you have minor children, you need to prepare for the worst-case scenario and ensure they will be cared for if you and your spouse or partner meet an untimely end. 

The two primary concerns for your children are deciding (1) who will manage their money when you’re gone, and (2) who will take care of the children on a daily basis. 

For their money, you can set up a trust and name a trustee to manage the assets until the children become adults. The more challenging question may be deciding who will be the guardian of the children if you both die. This choice could change over the years because people and situations evolve.

Know Your Spouse or Partner’s Wishes About End-of-Life Medical Care and Funeral Arrangements

Anyone who has gone through the experience of having to make end-of-life choices for a close relative understands the soul-searching and angst that may accompany those decisions. It is much easier to navigate those emotion-filled times if you already had these conversations and made these decisions before the unthinkable happens. 

When you know the answers, you can take comfort in knowing that you are merely carrying out your spouse or partner’s wishes rather than having to figure out or decide what should happen. Also, you should find out what kind of funeral and burial arrangements your spouse or partner would like. The answers might surprise you.

Review Your Assets with Your Estate Planning Lawyer

Along with discussing the above issues, you and your spouse or partner should sit down with your estate planning attorney and go over your list of all assets that you each own.  One of the best gifts that you can give to your spouse or partner when you die is to have all of your assets in order ahead of time.   

You will want to make sure that your retirement accounts, investments, real property, vehicles, and other assets have up-to-date beneficiary designations and a clean title that does not conflict with your estate planning instruments. You don’t want to leave a mess to clean up after you die for the administrator of your trust or estate. 

Don’t forget about any life insurance policies.  You’ll want to be sure that the named beneficiaries are consistent with your wishes, and with any estate planning documents that may mention those policies.  Finally, be sure to have your California estate planning attorney draft all the documents to protect you and your spouse or partner, as well as your other loved ones. A durable power of attorney, living trust, medical power of attorney, and medical records authorization are a few of the documents that can provide the legal framework for the family if you or your spouse or partner become incapacitated or predecease the other. For legal assistance with your estate planning contact our office today.