Discussing the topic of mortality is never fun or easy, even if you intellectually understand that you and your spouse need to have strategic conversations about the future and the next generation. In some ways, it can be even more painful and awkward to contemplate your spouse’s death or last wishes than your own.
Despite the inherent discomfort created by the “will conversation,” however, you both might be surprised by the provide peace of mind and clarity you’ll experience after expressing your wishes and developing a structured way to approach this topic.
What, exactly, should you and your spouse discuss in the run up to establishing your will and other key planning documents?
Assets That You Own Jointly and Separately
You and your spouse likely share ownership of several important things, such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and other tangible assets. Discuss how these assets (and any debts) should be distributed in the event that one of you (or both of you) dies or becomes incapacitated. Also, determine the rights of survivorship for your finances. If you want your spouse to inherit your belongings after your death, make sure he or she legally can do so.
Trusts and Beneficiaries
Placing your assets into a living trust can potentially save you money on estate taxes and other fees. Essentially, upon your death, you legally give up ownership of the assets listed in the trust to another party (the trustee). He or she will determine who is eligible to inherit those assets as beneficiaries.
Regardless of whether or not you have children, discuss how to distribute your assets. The state of California imposes clear guidelines on those who want to establish living trusts. The most common situation involves allowing a spouse to inherit financial assets and handle them in accordance with his or her wishes. Talk to your partner about using a trust to handle the other’s assets rather than leaving the process up to the court system. Different types of trusts abound, and these instruments can be used to give to charity in a way that maximizes your tax protection, to prevent children from squabbling over an inheritance or spending it on bad business decisions and dozens of other functions. An attorney with experience in California estate law can help you explore trusts and other planning instruments and choose the most appropriate options for your needs.
A simple will is a basic way to handle your final expenses. Effectively, you can leave everything directly to your spouse. This method of estate planning is straightforward and leaves little room for discussion; you define your spouse as the sole inheritor of your assets and give him or her the right to act on your behalf.
Be advised that if you only leave a simple will, instead of more sophisticated document, like a living trust, your spouse may face challenges like settling annuities, pensions, final expenses, taxes, fees, and determining succession.
Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Releases, and Advanced Health Care Directives
You and your spouse may want to talk about creating what’s known as a HIPAA release, which will allow the other spouse easy access to your medical records if you become sick. You’ll also want to discuss what kind of emergency medical care you want and codify that in an Advanced Health Care Directive. Finally, you may want to establish Powers of Attorney, which will allow you (or your spouse) to assume legal and financial powers over affairs in the event of illness.
Quality Will Service in Pasadena: Get Skillful Help with Your Planning
Discussing the death of a loved one can be heartbreaking, and financial worries can compound the pain. Speak to a compassionate attorney that understands estate law. Contact us to discuss any questions you have about estate planning and will services.