You see, the number one issue complicating your estate plan isn’t your property—it’s your family. Issues like divorce, bankruptcy, substance abuse, or even a good old-fashioned family feud can complicate things quickly. Before you dismiss these problems as something that could never happen to your family, let me tell you about Bob and Betty.
Bob and Betty are married, in their 60’s, and have two well-adjusted adult children. One day, Bob died unexpectedly of heart failure. Between the life insurance, savings and the house, Bob left Betty an estate worth a little over a half a million dollars. Bob’s will left everything to Betty. In turn, Betty’s will provided that upon her death, everything should go to their two kids.
Betty was devastated after losing Bob. But after some time had passed, she became lonely and started spending time with a man she met at church named Jimmy. Eventually, Jimmy and Betty were married, with the reluctant approval of Betty’s children.
Two years later Betty suddenly fell ill, and after a brief hospital stay she too died unexpectedly. Jimmy and Betty’s children mourned Betty’s loss together. The children of course expected to inherit Betty’s entire estate, just like it stated in her will.
One day, Jimmy mentioned to the kids that, as her husband, “Betty would’ve wanted him to have something” from her estate. Of course, Jimmy had never been great with money, and had no real assets of his own.
Then the kids got a letter from Jimmy’s lawyer. Even though Betty’s will left everything them, Jimmy felt as though he should get some of her assets, too. The kids were upset and hired their own lawyer, who shocked them with the news that Jimmy, as Betty’s widower, was in fact entitled to a certain share of her assets. This was true even though her will left him nothing at all.
Bob and Betty’s simple wills were good estate planning tools, but even the best tools need occasional maintenance. For Betty, her kids were left to fix a mess that could have been avoided by giving her simple will a simple tune-up.