It just makes sense. You’re married and you want to provide for your spouse after you pass. Logic suggests that the best way to ensure that your spouse is provided for is to leave everything to them through your Will. It should just be a simple matter of stating in the Will that your spouse gets everything upon your death. Right?
The nickname for a Will that gives everything outright to the spouse is an “I Love You” Will. While it sounds like exactly what you want, under certain circumstances, it could be a terrible idea because an “I Love You” Will includes no protections: the inheritance is outright.
But protections might be just what the surviving spouse (and your kids) need.
For example, Jack and Suzie Johnson married during the Vietnam era and raised three lovely daughters together. They had simple Wills drawn up by their real estate attorney which said each spouse inherits everything upon the death of the first spouse. The Will said that if they both died at the same time, their three girls would inherit equally.
After 50 years of marriage, Suzie passed and Jack inherited all assets outright and with no protections.
Shortly thereafter, Jack met Jacqueline and married her within the year. Jacqueline had two sons from a prior marriage. Jack and Jacqueline were responsible and knew they needed new Wills. They went to an attorney, who drafted new “I Love You” Wills, giving all assets to each other at death. And if they both died at the same time, their Wills said one-half would go to Jack’s three daughters and one-half to Jacqueline’s two sons.
You might guess what happened next. Within a few years, Jack died. Jacqueline inherited everything.
Jacqueline wasn’t close to Jack and Suzie’s three daughters. She decided to update her Will, stipulating that her two sons would inherit everything from her. Thus, when she died, Jacqueline’s two sons inherited from their mom everything that was hers, and everything that had been Jack and Suzie’s assets. Jack and Suzie’s three daughters received nothing.
We call this result “unintentional disinheritance.” Jack and Suzie never intended to disinherit their children, but that’s what happened. Why? Because their “I Love You” Wills offered no protection to the children of the first marriage.
If your Will does not contain a trust within it, you likely have an “I Love You” Will. Make sure you understand what that means and what can go wrong. See a qualified Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney to create an Estate Plan that provides for the people you want to protect. That really is the best way to say, “I love you.”