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Estate planning continues after your spouse passes away

Many married couples in Minnesota may have executed a will, trust or other documents as part of their estate plans. However, these plans should be reviewed and updated after key life events. One of these events is the death of one of the spouses. When this happens, the surviving spouse should make sure their estate plan still meets their wishes.

First, a surviving spouse should review their durable power of attorney. This is the document that states who is to make financial decisions should the spouse become incapacitated. If the person selected to fulfill that role was one's now-deceased spouse, the surviving spouse will have to name someone else in their power of attorney.

Medical powers of attorney -- also known as health care proxies -- will also need to be reviewed for the same reasons a durable power of attorney needs to be reviewed. This document is often filed with one's chosen hospital or primary care doctor. If so, these individuals should be given a copy of the new medical power of attorney once it is updated.

Also, one's will or trust should be reviewed. This is good advice that could benefit a person both before their spouse passes away and after. For example, there may be reasons why a person wants to change what an heir will receive and any conditions that may be placed on that inheritance. In addition, if a surviving spouse has a life insurance policy, bank accounts or retirement accounts, the beneficiary may be their now-deceased spouse. These beneficiaries will need to be updated.

What this all comes down to is that one's estate plan should be reviewed periodically, but especially after one's spouse passes away. Naturally, the death of a spouse is a very difficult time, so the thought of updating one's estate plan may not be on the surviving spouse's mind. However, it is something that should be done as soon as feasible. This way, the surviving spouse's interests can be protected, and their estate plan can continue to meet their wishes, which may have changed following this key life event. If you have estate planning questions, contact an attorney to help.

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