Common Spousal Issues When Estate Planning

Posted on: 22 December 2016

Estate planning is important for everyone with assets to protect, but it's especially important for those who are married. Those who are married -- and those who have children -- will need to consider some specific issues that can arise, particularly regarding where their finances will go after they pass on. 

Determining the Order of Beneficiaries

One of the primary reasons spouses need to plan their estates together is because of the order of beneficiaries. If a husband dies first, it is clear that the wife's beneficiaries will ultimately acquire the estate that has been left to her. Likewise, if the wife dies first, the husband will be able to pass on the estate left to him. But in the case that both spouses pass at the same time, this can become even more complex. Having a prior plan for exactly this situation can help avoid a protracted legal battle.

Protecting Assets through Trusts

Trusts protect money from being passed on to undesired parties even after the individual in question has passed on. Without a trust, a husband might die and leave his money to his wife. His wife could then pass on and leave her money to her new husband -- either intentionally through a will or unintentionally by not having one. With a trust, on the other hand, the husband could protect this money by ensuring that it would be passed on to his children following his wife's death. Without a trust, there is no way to stipulate this.

Planning for Long-Term Care

Estate planning doesn't just govern what happens after you and your spouse pass. It also covers the financial planning for your long-term care. When it comes to spouses, it is very possible that one person may have significantly more in medical expenses than the other. It's also possible that both individuals will need long-term care and medical care equally. The estate planning process will cover everything from your medical power of attorney to trust accounts necessary to cover your financial needs.

Spouses should visit a financial planner or an estate planner, like, together in order to solidify their agreements. Beforehand, though, they may want to discuss and agree upon exactly what they want to happen to their possessions after they pass on. Most arrangements will be fairly easy for an estate planner to setup, but it's up to the couples to determine the plan that will work best for their relationship.