Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Friday, December 5, 2014

Married Without Children: Estate Planning for Couples With No Kids

When most people think of estate planning what usually comes to mind is passing wealth down to children or grandchildren.    But, more and more couples are getting married and remaining childless for various reasons. These couples, who are not spending money on raising children, sometimes amass large estates.  It is important for couples in this situation to do the appropriate estate planning so that their wealth passes according to their wishes after death.

Married couples without children have two main considerations.  First, they should put some thought into the possibility of incapacity.  Each spouse should think about who will handle his or her financial and medical affairs if he or she cannot.  Most spouses designate each other as a first choice.  But, since either could pre-decease or become incapacitated as well, it is always wise to designate a secondary appointee.  Each spouse should contemplate this and choose someone whom he or she fully trusts such as a niece, nephew, other family member, friend or even a professional.  The attorney will note all of the couple’s choices in the individual powers of attorney and advanced health care directives to be used in the event of incapacity, saving loved ones valuable time and money.

After dealing with incapacity, couples should consider who will receive their wealth after they die.  The problem with having no plan is that when one spouse passes away, his or her wealth will pass to the other spouse.  Then when the surviving spouse dies, all of the assets will pass to his or her family and not to the family of the other spouse. Luckily, planning can be done to avoid this.  One option is to create sweetheart wills where each spouse leaves everything to the other, but then designate who will receive the assets after the surviving spouse dies.  Another option is a joint revocable trust, which accomplishes the same thing as a will, without the time and expense of probate.  The problem with these two options is that they can be changed by the surviving spouse after the first spouse dies.  One way for each spouse to ensure that the assets will be distributed as he or she desires is to create an irrevocable trust.  This trust cannot be changed but has other implications which should be discussed with an attorney such as gift tax consequences.

No two situations are the same so every plan is different.  It is always in the best interest of a couple to seek the advice of an estate planning attorney before executing any documents.  Contact the Arkansas attorneys at Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC by calling (501) 376-8222 for a consultation today.

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