This Blog was written by Emily Racine, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management
Estate planning is a complex and emotional process under the best of times. Adding on the natural intricacies that accompany mixed families and second marriages only further adds to these emotional complexities.
While it is an uncomfortable topic of conversation, it is especially important that couples in complex family situations sit down and have honest conversations about estate planning. However, in my experience, often couples are too intimidated by these complexities and emotional sensitivities to have these difficult talks. This only serves to further underline the importance of engaging an estate planner with the experience and emotional sensitivity to navigate families past these pain points.
After a brief explanation of topics such as spousal trusts, protection for the children, and mutual wills, I have seen couples seem to shut down regarding these options, preferring instead to rely on the good faith of their partners. However, when financial stresses, remarriage, or grandchildren come into the picture, it may be too late to address these gaps.
It is easy for couples to ignore some of the potential pitfalls and put together an estate plan that relies on the love and trust they have for one another. Honestly, this is a valid option. However, in order to make the best decision, clients need to be aware of all of their options, even if one of those options considers the painful truth of what happens if your spouse remarries after you are gone.
Although it may feel like it, it is not a betrayal of your spouse to ask questions about this scenario. Even though it is uncomfortable, the more knowledge you have when putting together your estate plan, the easier it will be for you to make an informed choice about what is best for your family.
Estate planners certainly seem to look at the world from a “glass half empty” philosophy. If this is true, it is only because we have seen the worst-case scenarios come to light. We have seen the family that says “my children won’t fight when I’m gone” and then we have seen all those children hire their own lawyers once the parents have passed away.
So don’t ignore the seemingly negative warning from your estate planner. We are only trying to help prevent nasty situations we have seen before. Get all the information you can and then make the best decision for your family and your own personal situation. Estate planning may be an uncomfortable process but it is certainly preferable to the alternatives that we have seen come to pass when proper planning is not done.