Thousands of people are still dying from COVID-19 complications every day, and others are dealing with life-threatening and terminal illnesses like cancer, heart attack and stroke. If your spouse is ill, the pain is intensified by the anticipated loss of your life partner.
Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Your Spouse Is Dying: 5 Ways To Get Your Estate In Order Now,” says that it’s frequently the attending physician who suggests that your spouse get his affairs in order.
Your spouse’s current prognosis, like a terminal illness, and whether he or she’s at home or in a hospital will determine whether updates can be made to your estate plan. If it has been some time since the two of you last updated your estate plan, you should review the planning with your elder law attorney or estate planning attorney to be certain that you understand it and to see if there are any changes that can and should be made. There are five issues on which to focus your attention:
A Fiduciary Review. See who’s named in your estate planning documents to serve as executor and trustee of your spouse’s estate. They will have important roles after your spouse dies. Be sure you are comfortable with the selected fiduciaries, and they’re still a good fit. If your spouse has been sick, you’ve likely reviewed his or her health care proxy and power of attorney. If not, see who’s named in those documents as well.
An Asset Analysis. Determine the effect on your assets when your partner dies from a terminal illness. Get an updated list of all your assets and see if there are assets that are held jointly which will automatically pass to you on your spouse’s death or if there are assets in your spouse’s name alone with no transfer on death beneficiary provided. See if any assets have been transferred to a trust. These answers will determine how easily you can access the assets after your spouse’s passing.
A Trust Assessment. Any assets that are currently in a trust or will pass into a trust at death will be controlled by the trust document. See who the beneficiaries are, how distributions are made and who will control the assets.
Probate Prep. If there’s property solely in your spouse’s name with no transfer on death beneficiary, those assets will pass according to his or her will. Review the will to make sure you understand it and whether probate will be needed to settle the estate.
Beneficiary Designation Check. Make certain that beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and life insurance policies are current.
If changes need to be made after a terminal illness diagnosis, an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney can counsel you on how to best do this.
Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 26, 2021) “Your Spouse Is Dying: 5 Ways To Get Your Estate In Order Now”