STEPS TO TAKE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE

There are many immediate tasks at hand after the loss of a spouse such as notifying their friends, family, and colleagues, making funeral arrangements, and managing all the accompanying grief that arises.  It’s also imperative you talk with your estate planning attorney sooner rather than later — or you might be facing some pretty unpleasant consequences.  Small mistakes made during these exhausting times can come back to cause serious problems.

Estate planning attorneys remove the guesswork for you

This is a crucial time to lean on the support of your estate planning attorney. It’s our job to use our extensive training and experience to make sure your family home and savings is well cared for. Let us take the initiative to ensure the smooth transition of his or her wealth and resources.

Here are the essential basics we will cover, along with time-sensitive developments that could affect you:

1. Who to notify, how and when

The post office, IRS, and social security office, pension, insurance and annuity companies, banks, and more.  How to handle his or her email and social media as well as other online accounts.   Determining the priority of paying bills as well as your personal liability for doing so.  These tasks can be can be time-consuming and questions may arise during these processes.

2. Learning your exact role in your spouse’s estate plan 

Once we formally meet to begin the process of executing the directives and transfers delineated in your spouse’s estate, we must go over the wills and trusts contained within it and clarify your specific legal and fiduciary role in carrying out his or her wishes.  While New York preserves certain rights to the surviving spouse, those rights are limited and may be shared with children depending on what, if any, planning documents were completed.  It is necessary to create a listing of assets with estimated value and proper title or beneficiary designation.  We can then assess the need for probate and take action at the appropriate time.

3. Beginning any necessary collaboration with other pertinent advisors

It is often appropriate to work collaboratively with other professionals like a tax or financial planner.  There may be deadlines or different ways to handle the transfer of assets which have dramatically different tax or benefit consequences if not handled correctly.  We will coordinate with these professionals to make sure the whole advisory team remains on the same page throughout the process.

4. Revisit your planning

Your new reality may demand action not only with your spouses assets but in planning for yourself.  Your outlook and long-term plans may change.  Selecting new beneficiaries may be more complicated than expected.

The period immediately following the loss of a spouse is a most difficult challenges on multiple levels. Know that you aren’t alone when it comes to the complicated and often confusing task of sorting out your spouse’s estate. Contact us right away and let us help you handle the legal and financial needs of the moment.

  • Law Office of Kathleen M. Toombs, PLLC



    157 Barrett Street
    Schenectady, NY 12305
    P: (518) 688-2846
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