As a result of the problems I encountered administering the estates of my parents, I learned a few things that might be helpful in planning for the end of your life, especially if you have dependents.
Many people designate trusted relatives or friends as attorneys in fact (through a document called a power of attorney) to act in case they become disabled and cannot handle their own financial and business affairs. The important thing to remember about such a designation is that it only exists during the lifetime of the grantor — as soon as the person designating another as attorney dies, the attorney’s authority to act on behalf of the grantor stops.
If you have a spouse, and you were the bigger earner, it is true that your surviving spouse will, in many cases, be able to receive your higher monthly social security payments after your death; however, your spouse’s own existing payments will cease, thus resulting in an immediate loss of income. What’s worse, after Social Security finds out about your death (usually from your funeral provider), if you have received any excess payments via direct deposit, it will claw them back from the account in which they were deposited.
If you were lucky enough to have a pension, you more than likely opted for benefits to your spouse to continue after your death, but at a reduced rate. The survivor in such situation may likely suffer a large, immediate loss in monthly income (from social security and the pension) that may not be offset by the reduced expenses of living alone.
The issue is not just whether there will be enough money for the survivor to live on long-term. The issue also is providing for the immediate needs of the survivor when income may be reduced and accounts frozen. Life insurance pays quickly, and can be a lifesaver if the policy beneficiary is the surviving spouse. Don’t make the mistake of using a life insurance policy to provide for those who don’t need the proceeds immediately; provide for them elsewhere in your estate plan.