ESTATE PLANNING FOR COUPLES

How married couples and domestic partners format their estate depends on a number of factors. Texas families come in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, whether estate plans should be done as a couple or independently is a case-by-case question.

Joint representation can be more cost-effective and efficient; however, if each spouse has his or her own lawyer, he or she may have more freedom to address personal concerns. This is especially important in blended families because there can be conflicting interests between family members–step children, step parents, etc.

Ultimately, a couple should not create estate plans together unless communication is open. Nevertheless, before you make a final decision, there are some factors that you should consider:

• If only one of you has children: If the parent dies first, there is a risk that the childless partner will leave out the children. While this issue can be addressed in shared estate planning documents, sources suggest that individuals plan separately in this particular scenario.

• If one of you is economically dependent on the other: This is usually not a reason to get separate lawyers; however, it might be when connected with other factors on this list.

• Length of the relationship: If the relationship is shorter, individuals should probably get separate lawyers. In other words, the longer the relationship, the safer couples are in joint representation.

• There is a prenuptial agreement: If it was important enough to have prenuptial or a property agreement prior to marriage, it is probably just as important to have separate lawyers for estate planning.

• Age difference: If there is a significant age difference between partners, individuals should get separate attorneys. At very different ages, individuals have diverse agendas or interests.

These are just some of the factors people should consider when determining whether they should make estate plans independently or together. In the end, experts claim that the decision mainly rests on financial issues. Therefore, one should not be offended if his or her partner opts for separate representation.

Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?” Deborah L. Jacobs, April 10, 2012