Cincinnati Probate Guide: Loss of a Spouse

If you are married or have parents who are married, at some point you will either directly or indirectly deal with the loss of a spouse.  The purpose of this article is to provide a straightforward guide to avoid common mistakes and oversights during what is already an emotional time.

How do you start?

After losing a spouse, the most important thing to do is ask for help. Working with a trusted adviser will help you ensure that all legal and financial obligations are taken care of without the worry of missing something along the way.

In most cases your family and friends will offer emotional support. With good intention, some may also offer explanation on what should happen or how the law works. While such support is appreciated,  because everyone’s legal and financial situation is different, it is important to consult with professionals to determine the next steps.

Who should I contact?

The following is a list of Organizations you will need to contact:

☐ Social Security.  You must inform Social Security of your spouse’s death. If you are receiving Social Security benefits, those benefits may change.

☐ Pension Provider.  If your spouse was receiving a pension, you will want to contact the provider to stop future payments and determine if there is a death benefit.

☐ Employer.  If your spouse was still employed, you need to let the employer know of his or her passing. The employer may have offered a life insurance policy which would need to be claimed.

The following is a list of Professionals you will need to contact:

☐ Attorney.  The most important professional to contact is an experienced estate attorney. There are many legal considerations which, if not properly addressed, will result in unnecessary loss.  If you do not work with an experienced Estate and Probate Attorney, I offer a free consultation to discuss the process and (if necessary) the flat rate for Probate services.

☐ Financial Adviser.  Before making changes in your retirement funds, bank accounts, or investing life insurance proceeds, it is best to speak with a financial adviser.  If you have lost a spouse, you may have also lost a source of income or health benefits. Based on these conditions, your investment strategy should be reassessed.

☐ Accountant.  For the year of your spouse’s death, a tax return is still necessary. In between the time of your spouse’s death and the date the Estate is resolved, if there was income in excess of $600.00 a 1041 form must also be filed with the IRS to claim income taxes.  In addition, if there was a loss on the sale of assets in the Estate you may want to file a 1041 to apply that loss to offset future gains.

All of these are issues for which professionals can provide sound advice to make certain your loved one’s estate and your future are secure.

This Legal Article was written by Elliott Stapleton a Probate and Estate Planning Attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. Elliott Stapleton is a Partner with CMRS Law in Cincinnati.