The idea that one might outlive a spouse is something that most adults do not want to think about. Unfortunately, failing to discuss and plan for the possibility can create several problems.  In the United States approximately 7% of the population has been a widow or widower at some point in their life.

Though women have a higher chance of outliving their spouses, thousands of men find themselves coping with the sudden loss of their wives. When a person passes away without a proper will in place, things can become complicated, but if each spouse created his or her own estate plan without consulting the partner, the situation could quickly degenerate. Understanding what happens when spouses do not estate plan together may encourage you and your spouse to address an uncomfortable but necessary subject.

Surprise Executors

It is normal for a spouse to be named as the executor of a deceased spouse’s estate, especially if the spouse and mutual children are the only beneficiaries. However, it is possible that a spouse could name someone else as an executor, and if you did not do your estate planning together, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise. If your spouse leaves behind a will that names a friend, other relative, business partner, or even an ex-spouse as his or her executor, things could become complicated, especially if there is animosity between the executor and beneficiaries.

Lost Assets

In a world where large hacks of major corporations and dating websites are constantly in the news, the average person understands the importance of digital security. No one wants to see their personal life go viral after a weak password or security error allows others to access and distribute their personal information. For that reason, the average person either memorizes account information or writes down account numbers and passwords with pen and paper. This increases the chances of valuable information such as account numbers, locations, and other vital information being lost if one spouse passes away without including the information in a will or failing to update outdated information.

Long-Term Financial Problems

Some spouses who do their estate planning separately believe that as long as their spouse is left in possession of certain joint assets such as a home or vehicle, they will be protected. What they forget is that maintaining these assets often requires access to cash for paying taxes, homeowners association dues, and simply keeping the lights on. Creating an estate plan that does not include liquid assets could create financial problems for your spouse, especially if you were the primary wage earner. Probate can take a long time, especially if there are disputes and issues, so you must work with your spouse to make sure he or she is left with the means to retain ownership of the property you intended for him or her to have.

Plan with an Expert

The best thing that you and your spouse can do to protect your legacy is to work together with a trust and estate lawyer. A qualified attorney can give you and your spouse advice that specifically addresses your unique circumstances. The team at MMZ Law is here to answer your questions and help put your mind at ease. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation at our Claremont, California location so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice that you need.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.