Estate Planning For Married Couples and Domestic Partners – Party of One?

When it comes to structuring estate plans, a potentially awkward but necessary question to ask is whether you and your spouse will seek joint or separate representation. This article in Forbes discusses how you and your spouse might go about answering that question.

Joint representation for estate planning has many benefits. First, it is generally less expensive than separate estate planning, because the spouses are able to be in the same meeting with the same estate planning attorney. Joint representation is also beneficial because it fosters trust and open communication between spouses.

There are also benefits to separate estate planning. If you and your spouse have different objectives and each have your own attorney looking out for your best interests, you may be more apt to voice your specific concerns and desires without worrying about how your spouse will react. Moreover, your attorney will only be concerned with your best interests. Often times, this is important in situations of blended families where there are competing interests. Ultimately, both spouses need to decide which maybe most appropriate in their particular situation.

The Forbes article suggests that spouses should consider separate estate planning representation in several circumstances:

  • Only one spouse has children
  • One spouse is decidedly more wealthy than the other
  • One spouse is economically dependent on the other
  • One spouse dominates all communication between both spouses
  • The relationship has been relatively short
  • One or both spouses has a large number of past relationships
  • There is a prenuptial agreement
  • Either or both spouses have skeletons in the closet