Fact of life #23: Women outlive men by about seven years on average. (I just made up the #23 part, but the rest is true.) If a husband dies without an estate plan, then he likely will leave a big old mess for his bride to clean up.
What else is new? She probably cleaned up after him throughout their marriage!
For some pertinent pointers on this subject, we turn to a recent Forbes article, titled, “The Widow's Guide To Estate Planning And Wealth Transfer.”
As the title clearly suggest, there some fundamentals every couple should cover together and steps widows should take after their better half passes.
While you will want to click over and read the original article, here are the Cliff's Notes:
Make Sure You Have A Professionally Drafted Will. Estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project.
Consult an experienced estate planning attorney as a couple to ensure all of your affairs are in order.
Typically an estate attorney will give a couple an information packet outlining all the topics to consider and documents to bring to the initial meeting.
By the way, bring your life insurance policy and any net-worth statements that tell how different properties are titled.
Another important part of estate planning for couples with young children?
Selecting "guardians" to rear them if orphaned.
Not only will this will be more cost effective, but it will make the meeting more meaningful.
[Save any arguments over potential guardian candidates (like whose sister is crazier) for outside the attorney's office.]
Open Your Own Bank Account. A big surprise for widows is that joint accounts are often "frozen" when a spouse passes away.
A separate account in your own name can be used for immediate expenses.
You can also put your joint account in a living trust before the either spouse passes. That way the surviving spouse will have ongoing access to the funds.
Lean on a Friend. The complexities of estate planning make it important to rely an experienced estate planning attorney.
However, in addition to rely on an expert for legal support in the estate planning process, the original article recommends seeking emotional support from a third-party expert, such as a grief counselor or clergy.
Also, a recently bereaved individual might find it helpful to bring a friend to any estate-related meetings.
In a state of grieving, you can miss important points of discussion with your attorney. If nothing else, a friend can attend the meetings to take notes, as well as to provide emotional support.
For Men Only: Look, you have worked hard to provide for your wife and family, right? Would you be interested in spending a little time and money now with an estate planning attorney, so her "next" husband and his family do not end up with your life's work later?
I thought so.
The time commitment on your part will take less time than a round of golf (even if you play like I do).
Now, call an experienced estate planning attorney near you and get the ball rolling.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Forbes (June 2, 2015) “The Widow's Guide To Estate Planning And Wealth Transfer”