WLG On Our Mind

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Unexpected Surprise Blow Strikes San Diego Widow & Widowers

Many people visiting their wills, trusts and estates lawyers in San Diego are unprepared to face the news that their income may drastically change upon the death of their spouse.  Unfortunately, this is something that sneaks up on a lot of San Diego couples who haven’t considered this or discussed it with their will and trust attorney. Although sometimes hidden in our blind spots, it is a no-brainer that paychecks for a working spouse will disappear if they die.  Retired couples often don’t think about this risk, but they should.  For example, the spouses of veterans are often surprised to find that VA benefits can end or be greatly reduced when the veteran passes away. 

VA benefits aren’t the only type of income that can come to a halt in these situations, either.  Union pensions can also stop or be reduced when the union member spouse dies.  Likewise, total Social Security benefits usually drop at the first death.  This is distressing news for those left behind who expected to maintain their lifestyle and to live on these sources of income.  Together, the death of a spouse, a drop in income can be a devastating one-two punch.

This is just one of the many surprises that can be in store when it comes to a surviving spouse’s ability to support him or her self.  The loss of those forms of revenue can be catastrophic. Too often, able bodied seniors, who have been widowed, find themselves being forced to go back to work.  For those who can’t work they often become dependent on government programs, or help from their children, just to get by.

A good San Diego will, trust and estate lawyer will help you to plan for this contingency.  There are several ways that the various forms of income can be replaced, such as through insurance policies and other types of strategic planning.  There are also ways to plan for care expenses to prevent them from consuming the nest egg that may be needed later by the surviving spouse.  The key, of course, is to anticipate these needs in advance so they can be provided for in the estate plan. 

Attorney Independence Makes a Difference 

Unlike commissioned insurance and investment brokers, your estate planning attorney can make recommendations free of any pressure to make a sale and earn a commission. If you let them, your San Diego will, trust and estate planning attorney will help you.  Together with your lawyer you can and should take a hard look at what income you have now and what income you would have if your partner were to die.  You can look critically at what your expenses are now, and what they will be later.  The goal of this type of planning is to develop strategies that work with your current situation in order to protect you, whether you are forced to face this soon or in many years.  Few couples die together at the same time.

This sort of planning isn’t just for the old.  For example, a younger couple might need to consider how to fund a college education for their children if one of them passed.  That couple’s estate planning lawyer could help determine what kinds of structures, products or trusts could be used to make sure the money is there later.  This is a distinct contrast to the likely needs of an older couple.  Each couple working with a competent estate planning attorney will find the best approach is to create a plan that suits their unique circumstance, young or old, with or without children.

Losing a loved one is hard enough without the added financial burden that can come from losing his or her income, too.  Estate planning discussions should include more than who gets Grandma’s china.  It isn’t just about ‘if you die’ it is also about ‘if you live.’ Make sure you discuss all your sources of income with your San Diego estate planning lawyer.   

Chose an estate planning and trust attorney who cares about more than selling you a ‘distribution on death trust’ in single meeting .  Planning is all about life and preparing for life cycle events.  A good legal counselor will get you ready for the bumps and curves that life cycle events present.  If you choose the right estate planning lawyer they will help you get and keep control of your circumstance during your life and after. With a firm grip on your situation and priorities, an estate planning attorney can help you maneuver through the maze of possible solutions to protect you, your spouse and those people and things that are important to you. 

Attorneys Joel Weissler and Damien Snow are available and can be reached at (619) 281-1888.  The Weissler Law Group is based in the Mission Valley area of San Diego and serves clients  throughout San Diego County.

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The Attorneys of the Weissler Law Group assist clients in San Diego, California as well as in: Coronado, Pacific Beach, Del Mar, Solana Beach, La Jolla, Del Cerro, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee, El Cajon, Rancho Bernardo, Poway, Escondido, National City, Spring Valley, and Chula Vista.

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