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Why spouses matter in estate planning

As residents of Delaware and elsewhere in the country enter the latter stages of their lives, financial experts expect trillions of dollars to be transferred, including will and trust bequests, charitable contributions and estate taxes. Their spouses will likely play a critical role in how such wealth is distributed.

It has been estimated that approximately 93.6 million estates will make or will have made these types of distributions between 2007 and 2061. Surviving spouses represent one of the most important parts of ensuring that a decedent's estate planning goals are realized. Many spouses are already ingrained in the daily lives of their partners, and they provide a resource for locating financial documents, contact information for estate planning attorneys and accountants and the location of specific property.

Additionally, spouses are often named to make financial and medical decisions for each other, through the use of powers of attorney and health care directives. This makes sense since it is important for individuals who have these responsibilities to be acquainted with the wishes of the person who appointed them. For these reasons, it is important for people to keep their spouses informed about their assets and end-of-life wishes and goals. They may also want to introduce their spouse to legal and tax advisers. Spouses who serve as executors under a partner's will can help continue the legacy of their partner and ensure that his or her wishes are fulfilled.

Those who are embarking on preparing their wills and other estate planning documents may wish to discuss their thoughts and goals with their spouse. It is often advisable for both of them to meet with an estate planning attorney so that a full exploration of the types of documents that may be appropriate can be made.

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