Estate Planning Pitfall: You Haven’t Coordinated Your Estate Plan With Your Spouse

It can be enough of a challenge to do estate planning for yourself, but it might be even more complicated when you have a spouse. You and your spouse may have been able to reach agreements on major life decisions such as raising children and where to live, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will easily agree on estate planning decisions.

At times, one spouse goes ahead and makes estate planning decisions without the other spouse knowing or approving of these choices, and this can come with serious consequences for the entire family. Clear and honest communication about estate planning goals is for everyone’s benefit.

Depending on which state you live, you and your spouse’s property may be community property, separate property, or tenancy by the entirety. Start by finding out what the law is for the state where you live as you plan for a joint estate.

Next, honestly evaluate the dynamics of your family. In situations such as families with children from a prior marriage, highly emotional tensions can arise when it comes to estate planning. It’s better to address these issues earlier rather than later to avoid potential legal conflicts down the road.

You should also determine the distribution of specific assets to designated beneficiaries and make sure to reach an agreement on these. You and your spouse may envision a work of art, piece of jewelry, or a collection of items going to a specific child – which may not be the same child that your spouse plans to leave these items to – so it’s best to talk about these things sooner rather than later.

Finally, keep tax implications in mind as you plan together with your spouse. There are currently generous tax law provisions that married couples can take advantage of which make it so that most estates can avoid tax. Incorporate techniques for estate tax minimization in your plan.

Your estate planning advisor can help you and your spouse create estate plans that work together in the best way for you and your family. For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.