When one spouse passes, the burden of handling their final affairs will often fall onto the surviving spouse. Unfortunately, tragedy can strike families in more than one fashion and spouses might pass simultaneously or within short interims between each other. It is not unheard of for couples to pass close together in time due to a variety of unfortunate causes. The emotional toll on the surviving spouse losing their partner has shown to be a common possibility of these occurrences. Additionally, because couples tend to travel together and stay in proximity for lengthy durations, accidents while traveling or vacationing can lead to terrible scenarios. Finally, extraordinary circumstances are not to be overlooked considering the recent COVID pandemic. What’s worse and, as one might imagine, this can complicate an already difficult and emotional process for the surviving family.
With the grief and shock of losing not just one but multiple loved ones, surviving family members must now attempt to sort through the final affairs of the deceased. And because these families are linked by marriage, the surviving family members are likely to be from different sides. Meaning that it’s not one but two families trying to agree on, and navigate, very complex legal decisions and responsibilities.
Some of the common questions that could arise are: What happens if their wills are different? Who has the final say if two executors now exist? Does one estate absorb into the estate of the most recently deceased or, does it absorb at all? Are their contingent survivors in the wills and who will be the rightful beneficiaries? All of these are difficult questions to answer, and those answers depend on a laundry list of factors.
North Carolina is one of the states that has adopted the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act. This act stipulates that when a spouse dies within 120 hours of the other that nothing is passed between their estates because they will be viewed as individually surviving one another. The result of this Act could mean a substantial difference in which beneficiaries if there are alternative heirs, will be entitled to which assets. This can include insurance policies needed to pay for final arrangements, real estate, and bank accounts. The rules are very particular to each of the various types of property. If the spouses’ wills are either not up to date or not in alignment with the alternate surviving heirs or the distribution of assets, then it could be very difficult to determine what and how much our loved ones intended to go where.
These are just a few of the complications that can arise when it comes to planning end-of-life arrangements. Most people are unaware or unprepared for these problems because we never expect them. Unfortunately, they do happen and can lead to big problems. Grieving families will already be in distress, and the last thing anyone wants is to leave behind a will that could divide a family on assets when they need to be focusing on healing.
King Law Offices is well equipped and prepared in estate planning. They have a team of professionals that are here to think of these unforeseen circumstances for you so that you can avoid worrying and your family can avoid this added burden. We know this process is difficult, but we are here to guide, advise, and ensure that your wishes are clear and uncomplicated. Whether you are a North or South Carolina resident, please feel free to contact us anytime for a consult at 888-748-5464(KING). We are here to help you.