Why losing a spouse means you need to change your estate plan

Why losing a spouse means you need to change your estate plan

| Feb 2, 2021 | Estate Planning

Losing a spouse changes just about everything in your life. Your daily routine, where you live and even how you view yourself will all potentially change in the aftermath of a spousal death. It can feel overwhelming to confront all of those changes at once.

Handling each necessary change as circumstances demand can give you time to adjust. However, some of the necessary changes in your life won’t present pressing issues until they are too late to address. Your estate plan is one such concern.

Estate plans often focus on spouses

You and your spouse probably created the document together. Chances are good that you named one another as beneficiaries for various purposes and also empowered each other to take action after your death and if there were some kind of medical incapacitation.

Now that your spouse is gone, you don’t just need to remove them as a beneficiary. You need to drastically alter much of your estate plan to better protect yourself. 

The importance of empowering people you trust

Even if you didn’t have your spouse’s name in your estate planning documents, by nature of their relationship with you, they would have held certain authority if you died or had an extreme medical event. After the death of your spouse, no one holds that authority unless you specifically empower them.

You can create power of attorney documents to give a child, sibling or friend the power to make medical decisions on your behalf or handle financial transactions if you can’t. You may also want to consider creating a durable power of attorney. This document effectively lets you name your own guardian if you become mentally incapacitated later in life.

You will also need to fill out legal forms that allow these trusted people to access your health records. Additionally, creating a new medical directive that reflects your current life situation can optimize the care you receive.

Reviewing your estate plan can be empowering

It can be easy to put off estate planning as unnecessary, especially right after a personal loss. However, the sooner you update all of your estate planning documents to reflect your new family circumstances, the more protection and peace of mind you can enjoy.

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