Civilized Will Preparation in South Florida

In South Florida, something as personal a preparing a will often turns into a battle of wills for too many couples and families.  The creation or updating of an estate plan necessitates the contemplation of money, death and extended family.  These are topics that can cause fighting in even the strongest of families. To avoid any conflict with your partner or spouse over the planning of your estate, here are a few tips to following when discussing the subject.

Try not to be too critical of your partner’s family members. Many fights that arise over the drafting of a will arise out of perceived attacks on relatives rather than which relative will receive what after the testator dies.  If you have strong feelings that one particular relative should be left out of your will or you disagree with your partner’s choice of South Florida executor, you need to be very diplomatic and describe your position without speaking negatively about the specific relative.  For example, you may explain that you wish to give a particular relative less than an equal share of your estate because other descendants need the money more or will put it to better use.  Be sure not to tell your partner that you believe this person does not deserve the money, even if they really don’t.  You should explain that you are not disagreeing with your partner’s choice of executor or trustee because there is something wrong with this person (even if there is), but because you think that there is someone else even better equipped to handle the task.

Propose compromises rather than arguing for one side or the other. There is a greater likelihood of fights occurring when one partner or spouse feels like his or her voice is not being heard by the other.  One preemptive solution to this problem is to listen to your partner’s positions and look for some kind of middle ground, even if you completely disagree with their decision.  For instance, if you disagree about how to break up the estate among relatives due to some of the relatives being less deserving than others, you may leave this less-than-worthy descendant a family heirloom of sentimental value, even if it has very little financial value.  Another solution could be to establish a South Florida charitable trust that provides for the family as one partner wishes but later donates whatever remains to charity, as the other wishes.

Another possible compromise with re-married couples might involve giving a small percentage of the estate to a partner’s children from a former marriage rather than shut these descendants out entirely.  It might also be a good idea to include a statement in your will explaining that the descendants who received less are no less loved.  If you and your partner or spouse cannot agree on a South Florida executor for your will, you might each name your ideal candidate for executor and make them co-executors rather than selecting one over the other or even name a mutual friend or a South Florida bank as executor rather than argue over which family member to select.

Discuss any issues that are potential landmines with your partner or spouse before meeting with your estate planning attorney. Visiting your South Florida estate planning attorney just so you and your partner can argue in front of him will increase everyone’s tension level and waste your time and the attorney’s time.  Instead of waiting to discuss these situations at the attorney’s office, you should set up a time to sit down with your spouse or partner before the meeting and discuss who should be executor, who should be responsible for any minor children, and who should receive what from each of your estates.  Even if you cannot compromise on every issue, this pre-meeting discussion will allow you to clearly and calmly discuss any disagreements with your attorney at the free consultation.  At that time, he may be able to offer some acceptable solutions.

Discuss each of your goals and come up with one primary objective. What do you and your partner most want your will to accomplish?  If you can agree on one primary objective, you will be less likely to bicker over the smaller details.  If you have minor children, you and your spouse can likely agree that the primary goal of your will is to ensure that the children are taken care of.  Both spouses will be mainly concerned that the children are raised properly.  If your partner protests that giving one of your family members custody of the children will anger or disappoint members of their family, simply remind your partner of the primary goal and explain why living with your choice of guardian would be in the best interests of the children.

Remember to continuously use the term “for now.” You and your partner should have your estate plans revised every time there is a change in your family or in the estate tax law.  Your will can and will be amended in the future.  Reminding your spouse or partner that the decisions made today are not necessarily permanent can remove some of the emotion from the discussion.  For example, if your partner wishes to make her sister the guardian of the children but you would prefer them being raised by your brother because he is married and she is single, you can assure your spouse that the topic can be revisited should her sister get married.

For more information on successfully discussing your estate plan with your partner or spouse, please contact the South Florida estate planning attorneys of Wild Felice & Pardo, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at  Let us protect what you value most.