I was recently mentioned in Chris Brocks article on the importance of communication for the Watertown Daily Times. When a spouse dies, there are unfortunately other pressing issues that coincide with grief. There is an emphasis on the legalities on next steps. In the article, Mr. Brock mentioned a few examples of individuals who testify their experiences to the unfortunate legal circumstances that occurred after losing their spouses. These experiences can fiercely open old wounds, and while some legal issues and battles are unavoidable, planning ahead and transparent communication can ease the burden. There is enough to worry about when a spouse or loved one dies. I, and other elder law and estate planning attorneys, aim to facilitate the easiest financial and legal transition after a tragedy such as this occurs.
Some important tips that Mr. Brock highlighted in his article include:
Social Security notifies the banks when individuals die. Banks will then shut down accounts of those members. If your husband or wife is the sole name on a bank account, especially with a credit card associated, you could wind up losing access to that account. Rather than having to handle that situation, it is best to have a joint or individual bank account.
If people are storing cash or bonds in their safe deposit boxes in a bank, that can be OK. But I like to have a jointly titled safe deposit box, so at least when one spouse passes away, the other one can still access it. I am a much bigger proponent of fireproof strong boxes in the house for important documents. If a bank safe deposit box is only in the name of one individual, their spouse will not be able to access it without a court order in the tragedy of their passing.
Can we see a trend here? In order to ease these legal battles after a spouse dies, joint ownership on titles, whether its a car, boat, trailer, etc., will prevent losing these items. Registration and insurance are not the things that are going to cause problems when you go to the DMV. Its going to be the title.
Grieving is a terribly challenging process. But planning ahead and openly communicating with your spouse or loved one will give you one less thing to worry about in times of need. If you or anyone you know has any questions or concerns or would like to schedule a free consultation, you can call or visit the Marrone Law Firm in Watertown and Syracuse, New York at (315) 728-9433.