Nobody enjoys thinking about death, but as we all know, it’s inevitable. We also know that in most cases, one spouse will outlive the other. That means both partners need to be involved with planning their estate.
But do they do it together or on their own? As Forbes outlines, the first thing couples should decide is if they want to have the same estate planning attorney or hire their own lawyers. It’s most cost-effective to do it together, since they would pay once instead of twice. Working together makes it easier to find documents and opens the lines of communication, which never hurts in a marriage or domestic partnership. If you have a blended family, however, separate estate plans might be an option to avoid hurt feelings among children and stepchildren.
Forbes offers the following tips to help couples decide if they should seek separate estate planning attorneys. Go separate if:
- “Only one of you has children. Most people want to leave their estate to their children. Those who are childless don’t have such a tie. The risk, if the parent dies first, is that the childless spouse or partner will dish out the children. This risk can be addressed in estate planning documents, but it’s better to have your own lawyer prepare them.
- Rich spouse, poor spouse. While not always definitive, a disparity between the two of you–of income or wealth–could adversely affect the estate planning for the spouse or partner who has less.
- One of you is economically dependent on the other. This alone is usually not a reason to get separate lawyers, but might be when combined with other circumstances on this list.
- One of you does all of the talking. Your estate planner ought to observe whether one of you dominates the other. It could be a sign of a communication problem between the two of you. The one who is strongly influenced (or oppressed) will certainly know that’s the case, but may not be at liberty to point it out.
- Length of the relationship. The shorter the relationship, the greater the likelihood that you should get separate lawyers.
- The number of past relationships. The greater the number of past relationships one, or both of you, have had, the stronger the need for separate representation.
- There’s a prenup. If it was important enough to have been separately represented in an earlier agreement–whether a prenuptial or a property agreement–it is probably important enough to have separate lawyers for estate planning.
- A big age difference. The greater the age difference between you, the greater the need to consider separate representation.
- Skeletons in the closet. Secrets can have an insidious impact on relationships and they tend to come out during the estate planning process. Maybe one of you has another lover or a child whose existence has been a secret. If you are both working with the same advisors, this can put your estate planners in a difficult spot when the secret comes to light.”
No matter what you decide, a Florida estate planning attorney can walk you and your spouse through all your estate planning needs.
Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee