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Wills are the best way to protect a surviving spouse

One of the most common choices that married couples make in regard to planning their estate is for each spouse to leave all assets to the other. Many couples feel that they have spent a lifetime working to build a base of assets and create financial stability, and they want that stability to pass directly to whichever partner survives the other. While this is an understandable approach, it is important the the proper steps are taken to ensure that this is the eventual outcome. Unfortunately, many Philadelphia families fail to create wills that would put their intention into writing.

In order to protect each other's financial security, married spouses must create clear and comprehensive wills that outline their final wishes. Otherwise, the rules of the state will dictate how assets are divided. This can mean that distant or even estranged relatives can end up with a significant portion of one's estate.

This is especially true in cases where one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage. State law considers children to be heirs, and will include all children in the probate process. This can mean that an adult child who no longer has any ties to a family could inherit. It also means that children under the age of 18 can inherit assets that will be held in trust. Once they reach adulthood, all of their inheritance will be made available to them, which is not always a positive development.

Creating a set of wills is not the arduous chore that many believe it to be. It is possible to come up with a basic legal plan under which assets pass from one spouse to the other. In addition, an estate planning attorney can work with a Philadelphia couple to determine if there are any other needs or desires related to the family's wealth, and can help find ways to make those goals into reality.

Source:, "Myths of estate planning", Lawrence S. Jacobs, May 28, 2016

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