Put Your House In Order If Your Spouse Dies
The loss of a spouse is always a very traumatic event. It is most important for your physical and emotional health to give yourself some time for the grieving process.
Once you feel mentally and emotionally able to do so, you should schedule an appointment with an attorney to review all legal documents.
Generally you should bring your Will and/or Revocable Living Trust, Deed to your home, certified copy of the death certificate and date of your marriage to the appointment with the lawyer. If you have advanced care directives such as a Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Health Care Surrogate, you should bring those as well.
If everything you owned was in both names, it is generally not necessary to probate your spouse’s Will. However, regarding your home, it is usually a good idea to “Clear the Title.” A certified copy of the death certificate without the cause of death will need to be recorded. The lawyer will also prepare and have you sign a “Continuous Marriage Affidavit” which is why you need the date of your marriage. This document will also be recorded to Clear Title in the property. If you have a Revocable Living Trust with your spouse, the lawyer will also need to prepare a document called “Notice of Trust.”
If you do not have a Revocable Living Trust, this appointment will be a good opportunity for you to discuss the creation of a Trust and preparation of a Quit Claim Deed in order to avoid probate on your home. If you do have a Trust, this may be an appropriate time to consider doing an Amendment to the Trust based on new circumstances. You may also wish to make changes in your Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Health Care Surrogate or create those documents if you do not have them.
I offer a free consultation to discuss all of the above matters; however I do encourage clients to wait until they feel emotionally and mentally able to make sometimes difficult legal decisions. There is no urgency contacting an attorney in most cases. It is much better to have peace of mind and clarity. I will certainly offer suggestions and options and give you the opportunity to sleep on it before finalizing new legal documents.
Serving Broward and Palm Beach Counties since 1973Be Smart!