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Ask the Attorney: Should I Leave Everything to My Spouse? (Spoiler — Your Kids May Never Get It)

Estate planning is a critical process that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. At Surprenant & Beneski, our estate planning attorneys are often asked whether it’s wise to leave everything to a spouse. Like estate planners everywhere, our clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, want to understand the potential consequences of taking such a seemingly straightforward step, especially regarding its possible effect on their children’s inheritance.

Our legal team is dedicated not only to preparing critical documents and giving sound advice but also to making sure that our clients don’t take any important steps affecting their futures without being fully aware of the risk factors involved. We have written this blog to clarify why leaving all of your estate to your spouse may not be a smart decision.

Understanding the Risks of Leaving Everything to Your Spouse

In any type of planning, it is wise to consider eventualities, however unlikely they may seem. Life is unpredictable, to say the least, and often ironically confronts us with the very situations we thought unimaginable. This is why we encourage you to seriously consider the following scenarios, however improbable they may seem:

Remarriage of Surviving Spouse: If your spouse remarries after your death, there’s a possibility that your assets could eventually pass to the new spouse or their children, bypassing your children entirely.

Creditors and Legal Issues: Your spouse’s debts or legal issues could jeopardize the estate. Creditors might claim a portion of the estate, diminishing what’s left for your children.

Estate Tax Implications: Depending on the size of your estate and the laws in place, leaving everything to your spouse could result in significant estate taxes, which might reduce the overall inheritance and thus the portion your children receive.

Healthcare Costs: Should your spouse require long-term care or encounter substantial healthcare costs, these expenses may significantly deplete the estate.

Safeguarding Your Children’s Inheritance

To mitigate these risks, consider letting us help you with the following strategies:

Create a Trust: A trust can provide control over how your assets are distributed after your death. For instance, a marital trust can ensure that your spouse is taken care of during their lifetime, with the remainder passing to your children.

Specify Bequests to Children: You can choose to leave certain assets directly to your children in your will, ensuring they receive a portion of your estate regardless of what happens to your spouse’s share.

Use Life Insurance Policies: Life insurance can provide a direct and tax-efficient way to leave assets to your children, separate from the estate you leave to your spouse.

Regularly Update Your Estate Plan: Life changes, such as remarriages, births, or changes in financial circumstances, require a prompt review and update of your estate plan.

How Our Attorneys Can Help

At Surprenant & Beneski, our experienced attorneys can guide you through these complex decisions. We can help you:

  • Understand the implications of various estate planning choices.
  • Create a comprehensive estate plan that balances your wishes to support 

your spouse and the need to protect your children’s inheritance.

  • Draft and manage trusts, wills, and other estate planning documents.
  • Navigate estate and tax laws to maximize the benefits to your beneficiaries.

The Takeaway

While leaving everything to your spouse may seem like the simplest option, it’s important to consider the potential impact on your children’s inheritance. By working with our skilled estate planning attorneys, you can create a plan that provides for your spouse while also ensuring that your children are provided for as you intend. Contact us now to make certain your estate plan is solid, with no loopholes through which your children might be inadvertently disinherited.