In Lusitan's thread about non-investing-savvy surviving spouses, Freebird mentioned "The Widow's Handbook" (Simple Investment Strategy for Non-Savvy Surviving Spouse
I read the book, thought "Yup, looks good", and put it on our library returns pile. Spouse fished it out of the pile, took the title to heart, and came up with a few pointed questions which I'm sure will have no effect on my longevity (right, honey?).
We have most of this figured out. Ideally
the search-and-rescue guys don't find me in the 10-12 foot surf and what's left washes ashore a few months later
I expire at home or at hospice or at the hospital. Spouse makes the phone calls and eventually the UH medical school whisks away the remains and leaves a receipt for a death certificate. Spouse gets about 20 certified copies of the death certificate (for a fee) and starts notifying the various debtors & financial institutions. If UH doesn't want my remains then I'm
composted in the back yard
cremated on the cheap and scattered in the surf at White Plains Beach. No big deal.
We have a "in case we wake up dead" folder with all the appropriate account names, website logins, and passwords. She'd be able to take over the finances, the bills, the e-mails, and even the E-R.org obituary post. Our kid could get to it if she needed to. No problems there either.
Everything we hold is in joint accounts (or joint with right of survivorship) or titled as "tenancy in the entirety". Our wills establish marital bypass trusts (although that seems unlikely ever to be necessary). In my case, spouse is executor. She and her brother (a tax CPA) are co-trustees for setting up the trust, at which point he fires himself and she takes over as sole trustee. (If both spouse and I were aboard the same Rockin' Roller Coaster then he's the executor for our kid.) Pretty straightforward boilerplate.
But her questions on the mechanics of the above have raised a little confusion. I know she could hand her credit card to a lawyer and everything would be taken care of-- for a fee.
Is that necessary? For example, is it possible for a surviving spouse to take a copy of a will and a death certificate to the local courthouse and have it processed by a clerk?
Would a lawyer have to draw up the trust or would the will's boilerplate serve as the trust document?
If a trust has to be drawn up, could that be handled by the military legal service center that drafted the will? Or would she have to hire a "real" lawyer?
Once the trust paperwork is drawn up and she/brother carve up the assets into the trusts, could she simply go to a title company and the state DMV to retitle the home & vehicle? Could she just fax over paperwork to Fidelity to retitle the taxable accounts and my IRA? I appreciate that there are specific issues on retitling things like IRA accounts, but she'd follow the guidance of the latest Ed Slott book or website.
She'd probably ask her brother to handle the tax returns.
Are there any other administrative processes that require lawyer work or court appearances? Or is the rest of the process DIY?