How to Talk to Your Spouse About Estate Planning

Aug 21, 2023

How many times have you wanted to do something and known full well your spouse is going to drag his/her feet? You don’t have to tell me, I’m married, I already know. Estate planning is not unlike anything else that may fall into this category whether it be talking about your finances or whether to go out on a Saturday night.

When it comes to estate planning, rest assured you can still obtain a will or a trust even if your spouse adamantly refuses. It’s not a great strategy but it can be done. However, if you’re not willing to let your spouse off the hook on this one, here are a few thoughts.

First, even though you may have come to terms with everything it means to write your will or trust, your spouse may have a lot of big feelings about it. As my best friend the therapist says: make space to acknowledge those feelings. Thinking about death is scary and existential, no way around it, but estate planning doesn’t have to be – in fact, I work really hard to make sure that it isn’t.

So, where do you start?

As part of my intake, I ask: “What keeps you up at night?” This gets to the heart of why people come to me. Sometimes people say, “I just know I should do this.” That’s a perfectly fine answer but you also might have a deeper reason. Maybe you are seeing first-hand the devastation that befell someone who lost a family member, maybe you want to talk about guardians for your children or special needs adults, maybe tax savings is on your mind. Whatever keeps you up at night, the feeling that led you to me, have a conversation with your spouse about those hopes and fears.

The next talking point is the one I tell everyone: estate planning takes the worst time in someone’s life (the death of a family member) and makes it 1% easier. Anyone who has lost someone knows what I mean when I ask you to recall those first few weeks when you’d give anything to have 1% less pain and stress. Estate planning can provide that 1%. ¹ From stating your medical wishes in a living will so no one is left wondering in the middle of a nightmare, naming a singular POA (and successors) to eliminate disagreements between family members of the same class, writing out funeral instructions and a list of assets and advisors, to making sure your cousin gets the opal ring that belonged to your shared grandmother – estate planning removes some of the guesswork. Think about the people who will be left to clean up after you pass. You’re doing this for them.

That leads me to point number three. For most people, the aftermath falls on the backs of your children. Like many parents, I’m sure you spent a lot of time and effort providing them with a good and easy life. Without planning, the work and stress that comes from your passing is left to the people for whom you’d do anything. By that same token, what if your children are young enough to need guardians? Have you discussed who would make the most sense? If you haven’t, the court is going to make that decision and it may not be what you would choose.

Finally, when contemplating the finality of a “Last Will and Testament”, know that your plan can and should be changed regularly. Especially big changes like losing and gaining family members and assets. Wills and trusts are not “one and done” documents so if a few months down the road you want to make a change, that can be done with relative ease.

If you’re ready to get this done, let’s set up an appointment to talk about it. At Printz Law, all consultations are done via phone or video chat. In the first meeting, I will provide a high-level overview of estate planning. By the second meeting, the design consultation, you will have filled out an intake providing an idea of your family members, assets, and goals and I will make recommendations for what makes the most sense for your family. Finally, the signing meeting is held at a location of your choice (home, work, etc.) and you just provide two disinterested witnesses. At Printz Law, we prioritize removing the hurdles to getting your will or trust completed. With concierge service and night and weekend appointments throughout the Lehigh Valley and Greater Pennsylvania, there is no easier solution than Printz Law. Look forward to meeting you soon!

–  ¹ Most people don’t know who makes their medical decisions if they should become incapacitated. If you have not drafted a POA, the state has a hierarchy of people to whom medical professionals will turn. If a person is married, their spouse will make those decisions but if both spouses are both incapacitated, who would be in charge? You might be surprised by who the state designates next and you may not like it. Is it an estranged parent? Is it a barely legal adult child? Is it going to come down to a class of people on equal footing (siblings, parents, children) who don’t get along?