Sweetheart Wills- a sweet sentiment that may leave a bitter aftertaste
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, by signing sweetheart wills, you can continue to provide for your spouse even after you are “parted by death.”
Sweetheart wills are, simply put, nearly identically written wills wherein each spouse leaves all assets and belongings to their “sweetheart” upon death. Despite the fact that we are talking about death, 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 do not provide the option to leave 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 does not fully address the proper care of any minor children you may leave behind. And, if you enter into sweetheart wills in a second or third marriage, your children from your prior marriage could wind up 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.