Estate planning is not many couples' idea of fun, but it is necessary to ensure that your loved ones are cared for after you are gone. An experienced estate planning attorney can handle drafting the proper documents and explaining the law behind estate planning; however, there are three important questions that you should address with your spouse or significant other regarding an estate plan.
How well does my spouse know my estate planning attorney?
If you are the one in charge of the estate planning process and the finances of the family, it is possible that your spouse has never met, or only met once, your estate planning attorney. Perhaps they met to briefly sign some papers, but the client/advisor relationship is not very strong.
If you are the first to pass away, your spouse would be relying on a person that they barely know during the most difficult time in their life. Since your estate planning attorney will know about every asset, final wish, and plan for the estate it is important that your spouse form a strong relationship with your estate planning attorney.
Does my significant other know where all of the accounts are located and how to access them?
The surviving spouse or significant other will need to access money immediately in order to pay for funeral expenses. Even if an insurance policy covers funeral expenses the reimbursement does not come until weeks or months later. Hospital bills and the daily expenditures of everyday life also need to be taken care of. Your spouse will not have time to search everywhere trying to figure out what accounts exist and how to access them.
You need to ensure that your significant other is aware of all financial accounts and how to access them after you pass away. It is helpful to make a list (or two) and leave them for your spouse that includes:
· Password lists for all online accounts and memberships
· Names of all accounts and memberships, online and offline, along with any necessary instructions
· Location of all estate planning documents
· Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all lawyers, financial planners, accountants, and others who helped create the estate plan
Are all of our estate planning documents and beneficiary designations up to date?
Life events such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and job changes can all necessitate an update to your estate plan. This applies to the will, estate planning documents, and any beneficiary designations. Be sure to check:
· Retirement plans (401K plans and IRAs)
· Life insurance
· Taxable investment accounts
...and other assets that require a beneficiary designation.
By talking with your spouse or significant other about these important aspects of your estate plan you can minimize the stress and confusion of the entire process. If your spouse has a good relationship with your estate planning attorney, is knowledgeable about your accounts, and has worked with you to update the estate plan and beneficiaries you can be assured that your loved ones will be properly cared after you are gone.