Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things that you’ll experience in your life. However, there are a number of estate planning steps that you’ll need to take to ensure that your spouse’s affairs are settled in a timely manner. Taking these steps may also help to ensure that your own affairs are in order as well.
Review beneficiary designations
If your spouse was the listed beneficiary of a bank, brokerage or retirement account, you’ll need to name an alternate beneficiary. You will also want to make sure that you remove your spouse from power of attorney forms, a trust or any other documents that your loved one was named on. If you own any assets jointly with your partner, you will need to retitle them to ensure that they can be passed on in a timely manner after you pass.
Make a portability designation
Filing Form 706 with the IRS allows you to claim any unused portion of your spouse’s estate tax exemption. Currently, the exemption is roughly $23 million per couple, but that number is expected to be much lower in 2026. If you do not file this form within nine months of your spouse’s death, you may lose that money forever.
Make sure your spouse’s affairs are in order
Before you can think about estate planning issues such as portability or titling assets, you’ll need to make sure that your spouse’s affairs are taken care of. Any assets left in his or her estate will need to go through probate while anything included in a trust will be handled outside of court.
Having a will, trust or other estate planning documents in place may make it possible to settle a loved one’s affairs without a lot of drama or stress. In addition to helping you avoid probate, adding a trust to your estate plan can make it easier to manage your affairs while incapacitated.