It’s Time to Update Your Estate Plan, Including a Separate Will for Each Spouse
You and your spouse do everything together, and you have no secrets, especially when it comes to finances. You are in agreement about how you want to spend your retirement and about who should inherit your assets after you are gone. For you, estate planning is simpler than it is for people who need to apportion their assets according to a delicate balance that will keep family tensions from bubbling over into all-out war. You need an estate plan as much as everyone else does, though, and just like people who are much wealthier and more polarizing than you are, you should review your estate plan frequently. A New York estate planning lawyer can help you ensure that the probate of your estate is as peaceful and drama-free as your life together on Earth.
The Trouble With Joint Wills
A joint will is one document with two testators, almost always a married couple. They both state that, when the first spouse dies, the second spouse inherits the entire estate, and when the second spouse dies, the couple’s children inherit everything. At first glance, that sounds a lot like what happens to your estate when you don’t write a will at all, but there is an important difference. A will is irrevocable; the second spouse cannot change it, even after the first one dies. It means that your spouse can control your financial decisions from beyond the grave. There are so many ways this could go wrong, so many reasons a widowed person might want to change their will. What if one of your grandchildren becomes estranged from his or her parents, and you want to leave some money to the grandchild separately from your son or daughter? What if the surviving spouse remarries? The list goes on and on.
If you want to leave your entire estate to each other, and then to your children, the better solution is to write separate wills saying so. Each of you can write something to the effect of, “If my spouse survives me, my spouse inherits my entire estate, but if I survive my spouse, our children inherit the estate.”
Life Is Always Changing, and So Should Your Estate Plan
Estate planning is not just about deciding who gets the money after someone dies. It is also about financial plans for your old age, in sickness and in health. Every year, life changes enough to warrant a review of your estate plan. Personal events, such as the birth of a new grandchild, can affect your estate plan, and so can nationwide events, such as a change in interest rates or in the stock market.