widow looking at photo of husband

Estate Planning For Widows and Widowers

The death of a spouse is devastating. Too often, in addition to grief and loss, the widow or widower is overwhelmed by the number of actions that must be taken within the period just after the spouse’s death for which there is little motivation and even less available energy. This is when having a strong estate planning attorney is invaluable. If you live in Southeastern Massachusetts, the experienced law practice of Surprenant & Beneski can be a lifesaver.

Our attorneys are as dedicated as they are skilled. They have decades of successful experience helping to smooth the way for widows and widowers who don’t know where to start doing what has to be done. Call us today for the personalized attention that is caring as well as capable. As soon as you make contact with us, you will feel the relief of having your burden lifted.

Our Legal Team Is Here to Get You Through This Difficult Period

You can depend on us to help you:

1. Notify All Interested Parties of the Death in the Family

This includes not only beneficiaries but banks, credit card companies, credit bureaus, place(s) of employment, etc. We will assist you in making an inclusive list.

2. Locate and Inventory Your Assets

Be aware of which items likely need a professional appraisal. Depending on the size of your estate and other circumstances, your assets may include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Real estate holdings
  • Insurance policies
  • Digital assets
  • Artwork
  • Antiques
  • Jewelry
  • Vintage cars
  • Other collectibles

3. Minimize Estate Taxes

If the estate that is now yours is of high net worth, you may be faced with hefty estate taxes. Our experienced attorneys can assist you in filing the final return for you and your spouse as a couple and apply to file singly in the future. Our familiarity with the tax code will enable you to take maximum deductions and do whatever else is possible to minimize your estate taxes.

4. File Insurance Claims

If your spouse had life insurance, you should file a claim promptly to receive any insurance benefits you are entitled to; the same goes for any other insurance proceeds that may now be yours.

5. Apply for Government Benefits

As a surviving spouse, you may qualify for Social Security survivor benefits. It is important to contact the Social Security Administration to find out whether you are eligible and the exact amount you will be receiving. You may also be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits, employment-related benefits, or pensions.  

6. Notify Your Health Insurance Carrier if You Have Been Covered Under Your Spouse’s Medical Plan

You may still be covered by your spouse’s policy, but it is also possible that you can continue your coverage under COBRA. Our lawyers will clarify this option and its costs.

7. Change Titles on Jointly Owned Property

If you and your spouse owned property as a couple (as joint tenants or tenants by the entirety), as the surviving spouse you will have to change the titles to show that now you are the sole owner. Types of property you may have owned jointly include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts.

8. Update Beneficiaries

It is common for spouses to designate one another as beneficiaries not only on life insurance policies, but on checking accounts, and retirement accounts. Therefore, it is critical to change such designations so that if you pass away, your funds will be directed where you want them to go. Note: the person named on the document itself takes precedence over what is stated in your will.

9. Update Estate Planning Documents and Create New Ones

As a widow or widower, you may also have to update your estate planning documents, for example, if you have named your spouse as a personal representative, trustee, or health care proxy. This is a time when you may want to update other estate documents, e.g. changing your emergency contact information. In addition, you may find a snag in the paperwork your spouse left behind and want to rectify your documents to avoid previously unforeseen pitfalls. 

Let Our Compassionate Attorneys Help You Navigate This Painful Period

We have extensive experience assisting widows and widowers during the days and months after the death of their spouse. Contact us today. You can depend on us to use our legal knowledge and our skills to provide you with the logistical and moral support you need.