What Should I Do When My Spouse is Dying?

Spouse is dying
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The stakes are high when your spouse is dying.

Death is an unpleasant reality, but a reality nevertheless.

It carries with it loss and grief.

Preparing for the death of a loved one is never easy emotionally, mentally, or physically.

This is especially challenging when your spouse is dying.

According to a recent Market Watch article titled “How to get your affairs in order if your spouse is dying,” failing to prepare for the legal aspects of incapacity and death is detrimental.

The pain is great when your spouse is dying.
Having no estate plan causes more stress and grief when a spouse is dying.

What should you do?

Gather information.

Start by listing your accounts and assembling the paperwork for each.

Your estate planning documents are crucial to have available when your spouse is dying.

The durable power of attorney and advance health care directives will be useful as your spouse loses capacity.

Having your revocable living trust, last will and testament, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and investment portfolios located greatly simplifies the transfer of assets after the death of your spouse.

When your spouse is dying, support from professionals can help you understand what steps to take.

Reach out to your accountant, insurance agent, estate planning attorney, doctors, and financial advisors.

Have their contact information readily available.

Once you have gathered this information, create a binder so your loved ones can find any information they need to provide support.

Confirm beneficiary designations.

Certain accounts and assets only pass through beneficiary designations.

These include life insurance policies, annuities, qualified retirement plans, stock options, restricted stock, and differed compensation plans.

If your spouse is dying and the named beneficiary on these accounts is an ex-spouse, you will not receive the asset.

Ask your spouse to review and change outdated beneficiary designations.

Review the estate plan.

If your estate plan has not been updated in several years, you may need to reach out to your estate planning attorney for a review and update while your spouse is yet alive.

Your plan should align with current applicable tax laws.

If your spouse does not have an estate plan in place, creating one must be prioritized.

Dying without at least a last will and testament means the estate of your spouse may be distributed according to the laws of your state.

The judge will designate an administrator and will decide who will raise your minor children if orphaned.

In the worst case scenario, your children may enter the foster care system.


If avoiding probate entirely is a priority for your dying spouse, a funded revocable living trust should be incorporated into your estate plan.

After the estate plan is set, discuss your wishes with loved ones so no one is surprised.

Create a master list of digital assets.

Digital assets are diverse.

These include those digital family photographs stored on dropbox, social media, email accounts, financial accounts, and website URLs owned and managed by your spouse.

When you spouse is dying, gathering the account information and naming a “legacy” contact should be tackled quickly.

Failing to do so could result in losing assets of sentimental and financial value.

Getting affairs in order may be the last thing you want to do when your spouse is dying, but it is essential to protecting you and your loved ones.

Reference: Market Watch (Jan. 22, 2021) “How to get your affairs in order if your spouse is dying”

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