Dear Annie, Estate Planning is Hard, Especially for Blended Families, Which is Why People Shouldn’t Do It on the Fly

Annie Lane apparently writes an advice column for The Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona. Today she gave some advice to a woman who was having trouble coaxing her second husband into doing some estate planning. After explaining that she has a college-age daughter and telling how happy she is in her 2nd marriage and what an otherwise perfect husband the new guy is, the woman writes,

He is so generous and dedicated, but this is one subject he will not deal with. We have no will or trust, but I get the feeling he would be fine with anything I would want to arrange financially. As far as what to do with our bodies upon death goes, though, that’s something we would need to decide on together. Even though I am older than he is, my family has a history of living long, and his family does not. And there is always a possibility we will go at the same time in some kind of accident.

So we have a second marriage, at least one child–a stepdaughter of the husband–a husband who is at least a few years younger than the wife and who is still passionately engaged in a career he loves. The family of one of the spouses has a long lifeline, the other a short one. Apparently plenty of money. And the wife seems pretty certain that even though he won’t talk about estate planning, the husband will be fine with anything she suggests.

Yeah, right. Especially when money’s involved.

And Annie says?

Fortunately, you seem equipped to tackle this challenge on behalf of you both.

Tell your husband that you’ll prepare a draft of the will and that he can simply sign off on it or make revisions before it’s finalized. My guess is that he’ll be relieved. Once the will is behind you, you’ll have the peace of mind to enjoy the rest of your lives together even more.

Where to start? Well, first there’s the idea that just anyone can draft a will. Of course, they can–and LegalZoom and its competitors are there to help. But really? The weeds can get pretty thick and high very quickly when you have some money, are in your 50s and 60s, and have grown children and stepchildren. I’ve been there and done that, and if you want hard, there it is–in spades.

Next, there’s the idea that where there’s a will, there’s a way out. But not so fast. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but there’s the little matter of stepchildren–his and probably hers. Who gets what–especially when it sounds like it’s really all his–is a question that needs to be addressed big time, preferably sitting in the office with an attorney with oodles of experience in dealing with blended families.

And then there’s the fact that a will is only the first in a long line of estate planning documents that virtually everybody should have in order, including trust, an advance health care directive, a financial power of attorney, and so one. Add to that the fact that though the couple probably have their minds around a number of issues in their financial and family life, there’s certainly a lot that they don’t know they don’t know. A good attorney can help them see those problems and issues.

I do agree with Annie on one thing: The woman having a will drafted and presenting the draft to her husband may bet him moving on the subject. But don’t do this alone.

My take anyway.

 

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