One of the most difficult times a person can go through is losing a spouse. Not only is the person faced with grief following their loss, but they must also deal with the financial and legal issues that arise during the probate and estate administration process. One saving grace is that adult children are usually able to assist their older parent during this time. The following are five ways that adult children can help a parent while they attempt to close out their spouse’s estate.
Determine Where Assets Are Held
In many cases, one spouse handles all of the couple’s finances. In the event that this is the spouse who passed away, the surviving spouse may have a difficult time tracking down assets. Your parent may need assistance finding these assets and accounts and organizing them according to their value and where they’re held.
Contact Benefits Organizations
While your parent may be consumed with making funeral and burial arrangements, it’s important that you contact the Social Security Administration and possibly the VA to inform them of your other parent’s passing. Your surviving parent may be entitled to receive survivor’s benefits, which could make a significant difference in their quality of life going forward.
Review Solely and Jointly-Held Accounts
It’s important to review solely and jointly-held assets once one spouse passes away. Jointly-held assets do not have to pass through probate, but once the remaining spouse dies, those assets will be considered solely-held estate property since both owners are deceased. Review your parents’ assets and how they’re held, then speak to an Ohio estate planning attorney to find out the best course of action for avoiding probate upon your surviving spouses passing.
Update Beneficiary Designations
Commonly, spouses have each other named as beneficiaries on their insurance policies and retirement and bank accounts. As noted above, if the second spouse dies and still has the pre-deceased spouse named as a beneficiary, the assets may have to go through the probate process. You can avoid this by helping your parent update their beneficiary designations according to their wishes now that their spouse has passed away.
Update Estate Plans
If your parents created estate plans that named each other as financial or medical agents, executors, or trustees, those documents should be reviewed and may need to be updated. An Ohio elder law attorney can review your parent’s existing estate plan and help your parent update the plan to ensure they will have the help they need when it’s necessary.
If you’d like more information about helping your parent navigate the process of estate planning after the death of a spouse, or if you’re currently going through a probate proceeding in Ohio and need assistance, please contact our office at 1-877-653-3450 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation.