Im finding that most people believe that there is only one way to do estate planning.
You and your spouse would go to a lawyer to prepare what are commonly known as I Love You wills. Everyone and his brother know how these wills work: If I die first, my spouse gets everything. If my spouse dies first, I get everything. When the last of us dies, our kids divide everything equally. And well make our oldest kid the executor (or executrix). Done and done.
Simple, right? Not any more. Because people are living longer, even what used to be a simple matter of inheritance has become more complex.
Heres what Im talking about:
Lets say your Dad comes to see me. Hes in his seventies now. His beloved wife (your Mom) died a number of years ago, after having been married forwell forever. He and your Mom lived a great life. They raised you and your siblings and enjoyed all their grandchildren on holidays, vacations, birthdays and get-togethers. It all was so wonderful, no one thought it would ever endbut it did.
Now, Dads in my office, and I dare you to guess why.
Hes here because he met a Lady Friend. He brought her to my office and I invited her to read the magazines in my waiting room while Dad and I talked.
They met at the local Senior Citizens Center. They really do have a good bit in common: Her husband died about the same time that your Mom did. And they began to talkabout their kids and their grandkids and, guess what
It looks like theyre getting serious.
Let me take a moment here to reassure you: Your dad loves your mom and always will. He honors the years they had together and the kids they made together, but hes just plain tired of roaming the earth alone, with no one to talk to and share with. He never wanted to get in the way of your life and your family, because he realizes (perhaps better than you) that its Your Life and Your Family and Your Time Now to enjoy all that. He had his turn (and thoroughly enjoyed it while it lasted). He is just tired of being alone (and so is his Lady Friend) and they really like each other.
Dad asks me what will happen if he decides to remarry, because he does not want to gyp you or your siblings out of your inheritance, which is the unused nest egg which he and your mother always wanted you all to have. Hes worried that you and your siblings will look at his Lady Friend only as a Golddigger who is interested in marrying him only for his money so that she can leave Your Inheritance to Her Kids if she outlasts Dad. He also tells me that his Lady Friend is worried about the very same thing.
This ones an Easy for me. I tell your Dad to relax, because in my world of estate planning, Inheritance does not always have to be a Last Man Standing, Winner Take All, Affair. I can create a Trust for Dad which will guarantee that the unused Nest Egg that he and your Mom put together will go to you and your siblings when Dad finally joins your Mom. That Trust and a Prenuptial Agreement will take care of Dad and the family and the Nest Egg which he and your Mom put together just fine.
Dad had no idea that this type of planning was possible, because he (and so many, many others) thought only in terms of the old I Love You will.
Bottom line: Things have changed. People are now living longer than they did in the last century, but, just like always, most people dont want to be alone. Good Estate Planning will give Dad peace of mind because he can be fair to all the important people in his life, especially you and your siblings.
By the way, Dads nervous about your meeting his Lady Friend. For his sake, I hope you like her. They really do make a cute couple.