A recent Forbes article took a look at the issue of couples estate planning. In particular, it raised the question of whether couples should use the same attorney to set up both of their estate plans. Some couples, of course, do just that, while others choose to seek out separate attorneys.
Each approach has benefits and drawbacks. Joint representation can be more cost effective, more efficient and can help build trust, but it also might limit the amount of freedom each spouse has to address specific concerns they may want to address in their estate plan. So how does one decide what is right for their situation? The article mentions a number of situations where it may be wise to consider separate representations. Let's take a look at them.
Among the situations where a couple may wish to seek separate representation are those in which only one spouse has children. The spouse who has children may want a separate attorney to ensure that their children aren't going to be disinherited if they die first.
Where there is a financial disparity between spouses, it may be good to seek out separate attorneys, since the poorer spouse may be put at a disadvantage.
If one spouse tends to be more controlling or to take charge more or one spouse is financially dependent on the other, it may be wise to seek out separate attorneys. Also, the shorter the relationship, the greater the age difference and the greater the number of previous relationships, the smarter it is to seek out separate attorneys.
Finally, big secrets that could cause a relationship to fall apart are an important reason to seek out separate attorneys.
It may be somewhat difficult to determine whether it would be best to use the same attorney or to go it alone, but readers should remember that it is important not procrastinate on estate planning.
Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?," Deborah Jacobs, April 10, 2012.