In the aftermath of two tragic and very high-profile deaths by suicide, it’s important to consider what both individuals had in common. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were both separated from their spouses but not yet divorced. That means that, unless other provisions were made, their surviving spouses will both have the ability to benefit from and manage all aspects of their considerable estates. Whether or not that was what the parties intended is unknown, but it does underscore the importance of creating updated wills and other documents during a California separation.
A will can clearly outline which assets are intended to pass down to which heirs. During a separation, a spouse can name his or her partner and can designate a portion of assets to pass down, if desired. Or, the bulk of assets can be passed to other loved ones or even charitable organizations.
A health care directive is another essential estate planning tool to think about during a separation. Without one, the surviving spouse will have the right to dictate one’s emergency health care and even final arrangements. Of course, some estranged spouses still trust their partner to make the decisions that are best, but many other couples do not share the same level of cooperation or communication.
Thinking about these issues can help California spouses protect their loved ones from additional strife in the event of a loss. When wills, health care directives and beneficiary designations are all up-to-date and clearly drafted, surviving loved ones may have an easier time handling the details of the estate. That can provide some breathing space as they move through the emotional stages of their loss.