Some Valentine’s Day Thoughts About “I Love You” Wills

Let’s begin with a definition: An “I Love You” will is a last will and testament wherein the person who makes the will (known as the testator) bequeaths everything to his or her spouse. It seems like a logical approach, and many couples think of it as an expression of their love for one another.

Unfortunately, there are potential problems with this type of will—for starters, it could unintentionally disinherit the couple’s children. How so? Consider the following scenario: With an “I Love You” will, when one spouse dies, the other inherits all assets. But what if the surviving spouse remarries, creates another “I Love You” will with the new spouse, and then predeceases the new spouse? The new spouse would inherit all assets, and there’s no guarantee he or she would leave anything to the original couple’s children.

An “I Love You” will also has the shortcomings inherent in any will. For instance, if the surviving spouse develops dementia, and no advance directives were created, estate assets may fall under the jurisdiction of a conservator. Additionally, all wills must go through probate, a process that can take several months (or much longer) to complete. During probate, the surviving spouse will be unable to access estate assets, which could make it difficult to make payments on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and more. Probate is also a public process, meaning anyone can find information about the decedent’s assets, debts, and creditors. An “I Love You” will also fails to protect assets from MassHealth or nursing home costs.

(You can learn more about the potential problems of an estate “plan” that relies solely on a will here.)

In short, an “I Love You” will may seem like a good idea, but you may want to consider other options, including a trust-based plan. As always, I am here to help any and every way I can.

Until next time, take care…

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