Many people think that estate planning consists largely of drafting documents and keeping them in safe places. Attorneys do spend the lion’s share of their time on such important matters, because these documents are your only voice once you die. But there’s also a very practical component to the work we do. Hopefully, this post will shed some light on some common spousal provision issues that you may have overlooked.

Financial Accounts

All financial account information, including account numbers, online passwords, and contact information, should stay in one place. To maintain both accessibility and security, place all this information in a single document and save it on a thumb drive. Along with banks, credit cards, online payment portals (PayPal and so on), also include information for magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, frequent flyer accounts, and other non-monetary accounts.

Virtual Accounts

In 2004, Yahoo and a dead soldier’s family fought a rather embarrassing legal battle over the decedent’s email account. In addition to passwords, be sure your spouse has the necessary legal documents to access such accounts. To clear up any lingering misunderstandings, such accounts, and the terms of access to these accounts, should probably be spelled out in the will.


It’s easy to remember things like houses, cars, and retirement accounts. Don’t forget jewelry, collectibles, digital devices, and so on. Like the account information, give one copy of this document to your spouse, send one to your executor, and keep a third in a bank box or other secure location.

Survivor Benefits

Typically, once a pension payee dies, the benefits automatically go to a surviving spouse. Be sure that your pension plan has this rule in place. Also, see what documents, if any, the plan administrator needs in order to change payees.

Life Insurance

As a rule of thumb, most people should have about seven to ten times their annual salary in life insurance. That’s a very broad rule of thumb and it obviously does not apply to all families. The same attorney who prepares your will should be in the loop regarding life insurance benefits as well, because these policies can often go into a trust.

Trust an Experienced Attorney

There are some practical steps you can take right now to make your passing a little less stressful on your loved ones. For a confidential consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in Renton, contact the Law Offices of Dan Kellogg. Home and office appointments are available.