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Sweetheart Wills- a sweet sentiment that may leave a bitter aftertaste

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2021 | Estate Planning - Estate Administration & Probate

Whether you’ve professed the words yourself or heard them on TV, most of us are familiar with the time-honored traditional marriage vows of “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  Marriage is considered a lifelong commitment where each spouse vows to provide and care for one another.  Contradictory to the vows, you can continue to provide for your spouse even after you are “parted by death” by signing sweetheart wills.

Sweetheart wills are, simply put, nearly identically written wills wherein each spouse leave all of their assets and belongings to their “sweetheart” upon death.  Despite the fact that we are talking about death here, this can be seen as a very romantic gesture between spouses.  While sweetheart wills are certainly well-intended, they are very limited in scope and, in the end, it’s rarely that simple to wrap up one’s affairs upon death.

Here are a few of the most significant limitations to using the sweetheart will as your main estate planning tool.  Sweetheart wills won’t provide for specific bequests of meaningful property to anyone other than your spouse. You may be in possession of a beloved family heirloom that a spouse could care less about, but a sibling might cherish for life.  In addition, a sweetheart will won’t fully address the proper care of any minor children you may leave behind. And, if this is during your second or third marriage, using sweetheart wills could result in your children from your prior marriage getting nothing upon the death of your surviving spouse.   Finally, contrary to popular belief a sweetheart will, or any will for that matter, won’t avoid the probate/court process upon your death.

This Valentine’s Day, say “I love you” with the gift of a comprehensive estate plan that will adequately care for all your loved ones, and ensure that your wishes are honored following your death or incapacity.