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Estate planning tasks for surviving spouses

When a Louisiana spouse dies, the surviving spouse may be preoccupied with settling the decedent's estate. However, there are several important steps they should take to get their own estates in order.

One reason for this is that in many estate planning documents, spouses may have named one another. For example, a power of attorney allows one person to take over financial affairs if the other person is incapacitated. If this is not updated and the surviving spouse becomes incapacitated, the family may have to go through a long and expensive process to appoint someone to manage finances. The surviving spouse may also want to update the health care proxy and HIPAA release forms. The former appoints someone to make medical decisions on the person's behalf if the person is unable to do so while the latter allows someone to access the person's medical information.

People should also review their wills and trusts and update them if necessary. It is common for spouses to name one another on beneficiary designations, so these may need to be reviewed and updated as well.

Taking care of this paperwork in the aftermath of a spouse's death can be difficult, but it can mean considerably less stress for family members if the surviving spouse also dies. After some time has passed, the surviving spouse may want to review the plan again to ensure it still reflects that person's wishes. While the couple may have agreed on certain elements of the estate plan, the surviving spouse might wish to make changes such as setting up a trust, making a charitable donation or adding a beneficiary.

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