Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult things that many Georgia residents will ever have to go through. The days and weeks that follow such a loss can be overwhelming, with a multitude of important decisions to make and items to check off the to-do list. One task that is often overlooked during this tumultuous time is the need to review the wills and other estate planning documents of both the decedent and the surviving spouse.
In many cases, spouses create an estate plan that passes wealth and decision-making responsibilities to each other. That often serves the family well, and allows each spouse to rest assured that their husband or wife will follow through on their wishes in the event of a death. However, once the first spouse passes on, the surviving spouse must turn his or her attention toward creating new estate planning documents that grant those rights and responsibilities to someone else.
A durable power of attorney is a good place to start. This document names a trusted party who is authorized to make financial decisions on one’s behalf. It’s a powerful tool in the event of incapacity or disability, but it’s also important to choose the right person for the job, as he or she will have an enormous amount of influence.
Creating a health care proxy serves a similar role, but the designated party will make medical decisions, not financial ones. In some cases, a spouse was named as the primary agent and an alternate agent was also listed. This is the time to think carefully about whether that choice remains the best available option, as well as who to name as a new alternate.
When it comes to wills, a surviving spouse must change the way that he or she views the entire scope of the family’s finances. It’s important to ensure that there is sufficient wealth to address financial needs moving forward, and also to consider how to distribute anything that remains at the time the surviving spouse passes away. It is not uncommon for things to change over the years, and for Georgia residents to alter their estate plan after the loss of a spouse.