How to Write a Will for a Widow

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A will allows you to specify who inherits your property when you die and many people who draft a will leave the bulk of their estate to their surviving spouse. When your husband or wife dies, it is time to rethink your beneficiaries and update your will.

Why Create a Will

Married, single, widowed or divorced, everybody needs a will. A will is a legal document you create to describe what you want to happen to your assets after you die. The will is not effective until your death so you can amend or revoke it at any point during your lifetime. It's wise to review and rewrite your will after major life events, including the death of a spouse.

Financial Issues

When you lose a spouse, your personal and financial situation changes. One of the things you need to do as you plan a new will is evaluate your current financial situation. You need to remove your spouse as a beneficiary under your old will and make appropriate bequests to others. You are now in sole possession of your share of the marital property and may also have inherited other property from your spouse. If your spouse left property to others, you can take that into account when planning your own bequests. You may require the assistance of an attorney or an accountant to determine how best to plan your estate.

Minor Children

In addition to containing a list of beneficiaries, a will is often the place a parent uses to name the person she wishes to take care of her minor children if she should die. Often a married couple relies on each other to undertake this responsibility, but once your spouse dies, you'll have to think through the issue again. Consider naming a financial guardian to handle the kids' money, in case you die while they are still underage, as well as a personal guardian to care for them until they reach the age of majority.

Executor Appointment

In most states, wills must pass through a court-supervised procedure called probate before the deceased's assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The person who manages the estate of the deceased is termed the executor, and he plays a central role in the probate proceedings. The executor collects assets, pays debts and taxes, locates heirs and reports back to the court on these matters. If you counted on your husband to serve as your executor, you need to select another trusted individual to fill this role.


About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson,,, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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