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Using estate planning to take care of a spouse after death

The average age of the population of this country continues to rise. Even as the number of so-called "gray divorces" continues to rise, many couples here in Illinois and elsewhere remain together well into their golden years. Sadly, not enough of them engage in the type of estate planning that will adequately care for the surviving spouse upon death.

One certainty in every person's life is death. With increasing numbers of people suffering from chronic illnesses and cancers, many people have at least some advance warning that death may take them sooner than they would like. This warning should prompt them to make arrangements to care for their surviving spouses, but that does not seem to be happening.

Approximately 53 percent of the country's widows say that their spouse died without making a plan to care for them afterward. This leads to the fact that around 50 percent of widows lose at least half their income when their spouse passes away. Of the retired couples who are still married, an alarming 76 percent say that they have not made financial preparations in case one of them dies.

Regardless of the reasons why, failing to engage in estate planning at retirement age or later jeopardizes the future of the surviving spouse. Many people here in Illinois and elsewhere live on fixed incomes at this time in their lives. Without one spouse putting a plan in place to care for the other after his or her death, the one left behind may encounter significant financial hardships that neither intended.

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