Category: Estate Planning
Tags: Trusts, Wills, Estate Planning

When Spouses Disagree During Estate Planning

Posted on: June 4th, 2013
estate planning conflictChoosing beneficiaries and deciding which assets each will receive may become a challenge if your spouse does not agree with your choices. Spousal conflicts can cause lengthy estate planning, frequent estate plan revisions, and family rifts between parents and their children. How can these conflicts be resolved?
Completely satisfying both partners may not be possible, but there are tools that help ease concerns about how to distribute assets. If both spouses are open to making adjustments, the number of conflicting decisions can be reduced and the couple can appoint beneficiaries and decide asset distribution together. If the couple has children and one spouse is not inclined to leave substantial assets to a child who has undisciplined spending habits, but their partner wants to divide assets equally among all children, an estate planning lawyer can create a trust specifically for the spendthrift child. The trust can be designated for specific spending purposes, such as for education expenses. This way parents can still leave an equal amount to each child, but prevent the beneficiary from wasting their inheritance.
Every couple should address conflicts with an estate planning lawyer, however there are commonly additional issues in:
Second marriages where inheritances for children from past relationships cause conflict. Terms in prenuptial agreements, if any, may surface here.
Situations where one spouse owns a business and the couple are unable to agree on how business investments should be distributed.
Most married couples elect for joint representation when it comes to estate planning. When there are major conflicts, separate estate planning counsel for each spouse might move the couple toward a resolution faster. Also, if partners clearly have separate wishes for their estates, an estate planning lawyer may have a conflict of interest in representing both partners.
Turn inheritance decisions into discussions. Start conversations about beneficiaries and their interests. Often times this talk will reveal a partner’s legitimate concerns about a potential beneficiary and help the couple make a better decision together. In some cases it may make sense to speak directly with the beneficiary and learn their future needs and how you can best provide for them.
Work with your spouse and your North Carolina estate planning lawyer to resolve conflicts now in order to avoid potential family disharmony or litigation after your death.
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