The death of a spouse is perhaps one of the most difficult and trying times in a person's life in California. After the funeral, much of the focus may be on settling the late spouse's estate. While this is certainly very important and must be taken care of, an estate planning review on the part of the surviving spouse is also very important.
Documents that were drawn up previously may have designated each spouse as the other's beneficiary. This may be true of insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other accounts or assets. Powers of attorney may need to be revisited. Spouses will frequently name each other as powers of attorney in the event that one is unable to make financial or other decisions. The surviving spouse may also wish to review his or her existing will and trust documents to verify that final wishes will still be carried out as intended.
Other issues that may need to be addressed are HIPAA designations, which strictly control who has access to a person's medical information. If another designation is needed, a new form will need to be signed. Healthcare proxies are another area that may need review. A healthcare proxy allows another person to make medical decisions in the event that a person becomes incapacitated.
The tasks associated with losing a spouse in California can be overwhelming. Seeking the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist in the review of a surviving spouse's estate documents can provide some relief from that stress. A knowledgeable attorney can assist in a thorough review of the documents and help to ensure that any issues have been resolved.