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Check your estate plan immediately if your spouse has passed

Couples make their estate plans together, typically. And they leave their belongings to each other, then to their children as secondary beneficiaries, in most instances.

It's a smart plan – if you die together in an accident or such. But, most likely, you will die at separate times.

After your spouse dies, work must be done to settle the estate. And once that is done, it's time to turn your attention to your own plans.

You will need to review the following:

  1. Your durable power of attorney: Your spouse probably held your durable power of attorney, which gives someone you name the power to make financial decisions if you're not able to do so. With your spouse gone, you will need to find another person whom you trust to take over that duty.
  2. A medical power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy: Your spouse likely was the person you authorized to make decisions, and you probably had an alternate. That alternate will become your proxy. Make sure this is the person you want to make the decisions or name a new person. Add an alternate, too.
  3. HIPAA releases: This HIPAA release allows you to designate someone to speak to doctors on your behalf if you don't have a health care proxy.
  4. Review your will and/or trust: Make sure it still suits your needs.
  5. Review all of your beneficiary designations on bank accounts, life insurance, etc.: Always update these documents if your late spouse was the beneficiary.

Your estate plan might include other documents, so be sure to review those, too. An attorney in Massachusetts who has experience in estate plans can assist you in your review and update.

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