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Handling an estate after one spouse dies

One Forbes article from August shares advice from a tax lawyer about estate planning and what happens when a spouse passes away. Nevada residents might want more information about this topic.

To cover basic expenses and funeral costs when a spouse passes away, it is a good idea for a couple to have a joint bank account with enough funds to pay for these costs. In cases where one person handled the finances, there can be a lot of confusion when this party passes away first. The other partner should at least know about relevant financial accounts and where estate planning documents are located.

The tax lawyer interviewed believed that wills, medical advance directives and financial advance directives should be used when estate planning. A financial advance directive is better known as a durable power of attorney. This lets a named proxy do things like pay bills when a person is incapacitated. A medical advance directive lets another person act as a health care surrogate when it comes to speaking with health care personnel and making medical decisions.

These health and financial documents may also involve a living will. This allows a person to indicate preferences regarding potential decisions a proxy could have to make. These tools could prevent a court from appointing a guardian to make decisions on a person's behalf. The guardianship process can be costly, and there is no guarantee that an individual will approve of the person that the court selects. If a guardian is needed, a person could lose some or all legal rights.

When deciding how an estate should be divided, a will can be used to provide instructions. An individual might wish to consult an attorney so that the directions in a will are legally enforceable. For example, a person likely could not exclude a spouse from receiving any assets.

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