What Does My Spouse Need to Know About My Estate Plan?
First, your spouse needs to know where to find a comprehensive list of any financial accounts you have. If you have several, disconnected investment accounts, you need to keep a list of account numbers and bank names. Banks don’t go scouring the obituaries for the names of dead customers. If your spouse doesn’t know you have an account at a specific bank, that money could sit untouched for generations. This is especially true today because banks are no longer sending paper statements. With nothing more than e-mail communications, your spouse could live on, completely unaware of your hidden nest egg.
Next, are there any major surprises in your will? If so, prepare your spouse for the news long before your death. If you are planning on giving half of your money to a charity, you should consult with your spouse. Without his or her consent, your spouse has grounds for contesting the will, nullifying your wishes, and doing as he or she wants with your money.
Finally, does your spouse know your lawyer or estate planner? With a substantial estate, the lawyer who wrote the will can manage post-death estate issues. However, if your spouse has never had a face-to-face meeting with your lawyer, he or she might be very unwilling to trust a stranger with such important financial matters. Your spouse needs to have quick and easy access to your estate planner’s contact information along with the trust to let the lawyer handle the will during a difficult time.