My neighbors, the Deans, -Harry and Elizabeth, enjoyed good fortune over the years. They have been together for 20-years or more. They have two beautiful children, Robert, a boy 17, and Alana, a girl 19. Recently, their family lawyer impressed upon them the need to make a will providing for the children and the surviving spouse. Over the years their family lawyer helped them through a number of routine legal problems. He helped them recover money from an unscrupulous plumbing contractor. He represented Robert when he had to appear in the Juvenile Court. Their lawyer has always responded when they needed him.Their lawyer told them he could draft a “living trust.” He believed the simple way to proceed was to leave all the assets to the surviving spouse.
After 20 years each spouse trusted the other to do the right thing. They would distribute the assets equally between the children and to take care of the surviving spouse. The family’s hard earned assets would remain in the family to the sole benefit of the family.
However, neither spouse (nor the lawyer) considered the unthinkable. What happens if Harry died and Elizabeth were to remarry? If after the passage of some time Elizabeth died then her new, perhaps younger spouse, may very well be entitled to half of the assets left by Harry for the sole use of Elizabeth and the children. Now, this new party has a sizeable slice of the pie intended for the sole use of the children and Elizabeth. This is not the result intended and reduces the value of Harry’s estate.
Harry and Elizabeth’s family attorney is, no doubt. a good guy. But writing a will is one thing, planning an estate is another. This is a special area. The estate planning attorney knows to anticipate the kind of problems which may arise. The estate planning lawyer understands that in law, as in life, nothing is as simple as we hoped it would be. Michael Jordan proved “that a champion basketball player is not necessarily a champion baseball player.”
If you need help planning your estate, Michael Gaston can help. Contact us today.