Michelle Tucker, CPA/PFS/CFP®/JD

Loss of a Spouse

Loss of a Spouse/Family Member
When your spouse or a family member dies, you'll need to handle numerous financial and legal matters. Even if you've always handled your family's finances, you may be overwhelmed by the number of matters you have to settle in the weeks and months following your loved one's death. While you can put off some of these tasks, others require immediate attention.
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Organizing Your Finances When Your Spouse Has Died
Losing a spouse is a stressful transition. And the added pressure of having to settle the estate and organize finances can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make dealing with these matters less difficult.
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Understanding Probate
When you die, you leave behind your estate. Your estate consists of your assets--all of your money, real estate, and worldly belongings. Your estate also includes your debts, expenses, and unpaid taxes. After you die, somebody must take charge of your estate and settle your affairs. This person will take your estate through probate, a court-supervised process that winds up your financial affairs after your death.
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The Probate Process
The Probate Process timeline illustration.
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Surviving Spouse's Elective Share
The elective share (sometimes called the widow's election, forced election, or "taking against the will") is a statutory right of a surviving spouse to receive a specified share of the decedent's estate instead of accepting the provisions made for the spouse in the decedent's will. The surviving spouse may either claim or waive the elective share.
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Family Settlements: Estate Planning
A family settlement is a legally binding agreement (or contract) made among your heirs and/or beneficiaries regarding the distribution of your estate.
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Types of Post-Mortem Elections
A disclaimer is a refusal to accept a gift, bequest, or other form of property transfer. This allows the beneficiaries to redistribute estate property without incurring transfer taxes on the redistribution.
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Types of Post-Mortem Elections for Business Owners
This election deducts a portion of the value of a qualified family-owned business interest from the estate, thereby possibly reducing any estate tax due (but not any generation- skipping transfer tax).
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Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2023.