Marriage often entails sharing nearly every facet of life with your partner. However, some topics, particularly those related to one’s eventual passing, are seldom discussed. Astonishingly, research reveals that approximately half of all couples do not communicate their end-of-life wishes.
Death is an immutable reality, and it leaves a host of unanswered questions for the surviving spouse. As uncomfortable as it may seem, discussing crucial subjects like burial arrangements, remarriage considerations, and the location of essential documents is a vital component of establishing a comprehensive estate plan.
Location of Important Documents
Couples, particularly older ones, frequently blend their finances. Baby boomers, for instance, often maintain joint accounts. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to manage financial matters primarily. In fact, less than one in four couples report that both partners share an equal role in financial management.
This unequal financial role can be a source of both daily-life and post-life concerns. To minimize potential stress, it’s essential for couples to ensure they are on the same page. In terms of day-to-day finances, this involves regular discussions about expenses, budgets, and financial planning. When it comes to estate planning, couples must keep each other informed about the location of important documents such as:
- Estate planning documents
- Life insurance paperwork
- Loan documents
- Financial account details (savings, retirement, investment accounts)
- Usernames, passwords, and other information for digital accounts and assets
It’s important to remember that in community property states, where spouses are regarded as joint owners of most property acquired during marriage, potential issues may arise. Even if separate accounts are maintained, if one spouse has separate estate planning documents, the other spouse should be aware of them to facilitate estate administration.
Following the passing of a spouse, the surviving partner is usually the first to learn of the loss. Afterward, there is a predetermined sequence for contacting individuals on a need-to-know basis.
While the surviving spouse typically knows who should be contacted, they may not have access to the contact details of these individuals. In the digital age, contact information is often stored in personal devices rather than traditional address books. To ensure accessibility, it’s wise to compile this information in a separate document or share login credentials for mobile devices.
Beyond immediate family and friends, a surviving spouse might be uncertain about contacting other parties like extended family, religious leaders, club associates, professional contacts, or the deceased’s employer. Some individuals may be mentioned in the will, necessitating inheritance notifications.
Keeping your spouse informed about these relationship statuses, whom to contact, and how to contact them regarding end-of-life wishes is a seemingly small but vital aspect of estate planning.
Addressing the disposition of one’s remains is undoubtedly one of the most morbid aspects of contemplating one’s passing. However, respecting an individual’s preferences in this matter is a way to ensure a dignified farewell.
Modern trends indicate a preference for cremation over traditional burial. This choice provides numerous options for personalization. Cremation may involve scattering ashes in a meaningful place, and traditional burials can vary from open-casket ceremonies to natural burials. Moreover, some individuals choose to donate their bodies to science.
In certain states, the surviving spouse typically holds primary authority over these decisions unless specific instructions from the deceased state otherwise. While discussing burial, cremation, or donation may be unpleasant, doing so can provide solace to both the departed and the surviving spouse, ensuring their most personal wishes are honored.
Wedding vows frequently include the phrase “’til death do us part.” However, the subject of remarriage after a spouse’s passing is worth addressing. From both a religious and secular perspective, it is widely accepted that a widowed spouse is not bound to lifelong fidelity.
Today, with more than half of marriages ending in divorce, the notion that a bereaved spouse should refrain from remarrying is outdated. However, attitudes towards remarriage can differ based on age, history, and personal beliefs. Conversations about remarriage are advisable.
Estate planning can also play a role in addressing this issue. For example, the use of a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust can protect the inheritance of children from a surviving spouse’s new partner. Spouses can discuss and design specific estate planning solutions based on their feelings about remarriage.
In conclusion, comprehensive estate planning is an expression of love and care for your spouse. It ensures that their needs and preferences are respected when you are no longer around. You can demonstrate your love by addressing these important aspects of your estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule an appointment and begin the estate planning process.