The loss of a spouse is generally followed by a period of grief during which it can be difficult to focus on practical and legal tasks. If you find yourself dealing with the loss of a spouse, however, there are some important estate plan changes that you probably need to make as soon as possible. To help you get started, the Indianapolis estate planning lawyers at Frank & Kraft discuss estate plan updates for a surviving spouse.
Your Last Will and Testament
Along with removing your spouse as a beneficiary under the provisions of your Will, you may also need to remove him/her as the Executor of your estate and appoint someone new to the position. Your current Will should include language that accounts for the possibility of a beneficiary predeceasing you; however, knowing that you will be the last spouse to die may change how you want your estate distributed. Your spouse probably left you significant assets which changes the make-up of your estate assets. Your Will may also already have language appointing someone else as your Executor if your spouse cannot serve; however, you now need to decide if that successor remains your first choice and, if so, who should be your replacement successor.
Trusts are a very popular addition to the average estate plan. If your plan includes a trust, and you appointed your spouse to be the Trustee of the trust, you may need to amend the trust agreement to appoint a new Trustee. Again, your trust agreement should anticipate the possibility of the need for a successor Trustee; however, it still warrants a review. More importantly, the purpose for the trust should be reviewed considering your spouse’s death. Assets may need to be added to the trust. Terms may need to be updated. You may even find that the need for the trust no longer exists.
Incapacity Planning Component
If you do not already have a comprehensive incapacity plan in place, it is crucial that you create one following the loss of your spouse. While your spouse was alive, the law would generally have deferred to him/her to make decisions and/or exert control over your assets if you could not because of your incapacity. Now, however, it is considerably less certain who would have the legal right to step in and make decisions and/or control your assets. That, in turn, increases the likelihood of a contentious court battle between adult children or other family members if you ever do become incapacitated. The best way to prevent this from happening while simultaneously ensuring that your wishes will be honored is to incorporate a comprehensive incapacity plan into your overall estate plan.
If you have advances directive in place you probably named your spouse as your Agent, giving him/her the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them at some point. This is not a document that you want to terminate; however, you will need to spend some time deciding who you wish to appoint as your Agent now that your spouse is gone. Then you need to make that change as soon as possible so you can be assured that the person you want to make decisions for you will make them if necessary.
Your spouse is also likely listed as the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policies. Start by reviewing the continuing need for the insurance given the recent passing of your spouse. You may decide that you do not need as much insurance as you currently have. If so, make that change. If you decide to retain the current insurance policy, you will need to update your beneficiaries.
Contact Indianapolis Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about updating your estate plan following the death of a spouse, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning lawyers at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.