If I pass, I have Provided for my Spouse – Or have I?

If I pass, I have Provided for my Spouse – Or have I?

Do you have an Estate Plan that has the ability to transform your family for generations to come?  One that is thoughtful, and ensures your final wishes will be fully carried out?  Many think they do; yet I invite you to read the following true story of an unfortunate situation that happens all too often after the sudden passing of a spouse.

This client, we will call him Dr. Harris, was married to his second wife.  He assured his wife that she would be fully taken care of if anything ever happened to him.  He had his estate plan done through a well-known attorney in town, where he provided fully for his wife to ensure she would have more than enough to continue her lifestyle after his passing.  So where is the problem, you ask?  It lies with the way his estate plan was funded.  Unfortunately, this well-known attorney did not assist the client in putting his assets in the trust.  This becomes an issue because those assets (bank accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, etc.) had his children listed as beneficiaries.  This means those assets would pass directly to his children, and not through the trust.  I.e., his spouse, whom he loved dearly, would receive nothing.

Unfortunately, when Dr. Harris died unexpectedly one year after creating his Estate Plan, this was exactly the result.  Mrs. Harris assumed that everything was handled, and now had to learn that she did not have enough to pay for her home, expenses, or daily activities.  Her husband had promised her that she would be taken care of, but in fact did not have enough in the Trust to fulfill his gift.  This was certainly not his intent for his wife, and her only choice was to then sue her husband’s children from his first marriage, to receive the funds she needed to pay for her living expenses.  This dispute lasted over 2 ½ years in the Probate court before being settled.

During this process, there were 5 different attorneys hired to represent different family members.  At mediation one morning, while they were enjoying their coffee, one of them remarked with a smile “Isn’t this great?  Five attorneys all billing by the hour because this family can’t get along.”  This is a common mistake that we see; if you have a second marriage please do not let this example of poor planning become your family.

The moral of the story is this: no matter how great a reputation an attorney may have in the drafting of the documents, selecting an attorney who gives you more than a stack of papers is what matters.  This is why working with an attorney who is a process-driven office that includes a follow-up plan and ensures that your assets have been fully funded to your Estate Plan is so important.  Let your attorney assist you in funding your Estate Plan for you, so you can worry about truly providing for your spouse while you are still here.

Our firms offers a free consultation, which includes a 50-point complex review and funding analysis to evaluate your current Estate Plan.  To inquire more on your personal Estate Plan or how to properly provide for your spouse, please contact our office for a free consultation at (239) 418-0169 or visit www.DorceyLaw.com.

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