Death of a spouse: estate planning considerations

When a spouse dies, he or she leaves behind emotional challenges and financial duties for the surviving partner. It is important for both spouses to understand the challenges of managing an estateEstate The total sum of money and property you leave behind when you die.+ read full definition, and to plan and be prepared for this life event.

Family members and friends may offer to help with managing your spouse’s estate. But even if you have help from others, you’ll need to play an active role in the process. Learn more about estate planning.

3 things to know before you manage an estate

  1. Identify and understand all details in your spouse’s will.
  2. Know the nature and requirements of any property to be transferred.
  3. Understand your rights in the legal process and taxTax A fee the government charges on income, property, and sales. The money goes to finance government programs and other costs.+ read full definition obligations you need to fulfill.

Plan ahead

Preparing for an estate transfer begins while people are alive: having a valid will and insurance and taking other measures that protect loved ones after a person passes away are an essential part of financial planning.

Talk to your spouse about each other’s estate plan, so you both understand each other’s wishes. Consider creating an estate information package – this will help with executing the estate plan when needed. Communicating estate plans with your spouse may help reduce some of the stress and challenges related to managing your spouse’s estate down the road.

Your estate information package should include:

  • a copy of the will and any other estate documents
  • a list of all financial accounts
  • a list of all the assets beneficiaries may be entitled to
  • details about all your debts and major assets.

Every planning process starts somewhere. Learn more about estate planningEstate planning The plans you make to build and manage wealth for your lifetime and thereafter. Goals may include leaving the most money possible to your loved ones, with the least amount of taxes. Other goals may include caring for children, paying off debt or passing on a business.+ read full definition at the Attorney General’s website.

Check out the Seniors Canada website for a list of provincial and national organizations who deal with end-of-life issues.

Key point

Preparing for the death of a spouse and having a plan in place may help reduce the emotional and financial impact of losing a partner.

Last updated