It’s always a good idea to express your love for someone you care about. However, in the realm of estate planning just saying “I love you” in a will may not be enough to accomplish your wishes.
Many people want to leave all of their assets to their spouse, and it’s become popular to write a will that says something along the lines of “Upon my death, I leave everything to my spouse.” Legal professionals often refer to these kinds of documents as “I love you” wills. But while this kind of will might seem like a loving gesture that covers all the bases, it can actually cause trouble for your spouse.
In this article, we’ll consider the possible problems with “I love you” wills, and some potentially better alternatives.
Pros of an “I Love You” Will
- The obvious advantage of an “I love you” is that it is simple and easy to write. Generally, a simple will doesn’t require extensive legal advice or assistance. It’s a “DIY” option. There are even online templates that can allow individuals to write a will on their own with ease.
However, while the convenience might seem tempting, it’s important to remember that simple wills made with online templates do not always allow you to carry out your wishes for your estate. The simplicity might be misleading and might leave out important aspects of how and when you want your assets to be used or distributed.
Cons of an “I Love You” Will:
- Your loved ones will have to go through the probate process.
- Probate means a lack of privacy – anyone will be able to see what you left to whom.
- Some provisions will not be accounted for. For example, a simplistic will may not name guardians for your minor children or state what will happen to your pets.
- If you have a taxable estate, your estate might be subject to taxes under an “I love you” will.
“The simpler the better’ works well for some areas of life, but when it comes to planning your estate, you might want to provide more holistic nuanced provision for your estate and your loved ones.
What Can You Do To Strengthen Your Estate Plan?
If you want to increase the flexibility and impact of your estate plan there are a few additional steps to consider. Of course, this list is not exhaustive.
- Asset protection planning
- For example, if you leave assets to your spouse through an irrevocable trust, then those assets will not be seen as your spouse’s own separate property and therefore cannot be seized by creditors or predators, or through lawsuits.
- Divorce protection planning
- Without proper planning, the assets you leave to your spouse could fall into the wrong hands if your spouse remarries. Setting up a trust can help protect your assets if your spouse’s next marriage ends in divorce.
- Take measures to keep assets within the family
- Just like divorce protection planning, taking measures to keep assets in your family protects those assets from becoming available or owned by someone you never would have chosen as an heir. For example, if your spouse remarries without prenuptial planning and then that marriage ends in divorce, the assets that you left to your spouse could end up going to the children of your spouse’s ex from the remarriage.
- Plan around estate taxes
- While avoiding estate taxes is not always possible, setting up a trust can help you avoid or reduce taxes. A trust can also help protect your estate from future changes in estate tax laws on both the state and federal level.
One often-recommended option that provides more personalization and protection than “I love you” wills is a trust. What makes a trust so much better than a will? In short, a trust gives you more control over when and how your assets are distributed, and who has access to them. There are many different kinds of trusts, and which kind is a better fit will depend on the needs and details of your estate, the circumstances of your family, and of course, your wishes.
Depending on what you want for your loved one and for your estate, an “I love you” will could work. But as a law firm dedicated to your wellbeing, we think it’s important to explain the advantages and disadvantages of all the various estate planning options available at your fingertips.
Do you have questions about safeguarding your assets and your loved ones’ wellbeing? Would you like to add a trust to your estate plan but aren’t quite sure how to get started? The Baby Boomers’ Barrister is here to help! Contact our St. Petersburg office at (727) 565-4250 or online!
100 2nd Avenue S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
3030 N. Rocky Point Drive W.
Tampa, FL 33607