My wife and I each have one son from a prior marriage. They both are college graduates. We own two homes that are not of the same value. My wife wants to get things sorted out so that when she dies her son is well taken care of. She has been talking about a trust. I am not too concerned about my son. I believe that he can take care of himself and that we do not have to save our money for them. I feel she is more concerned about taking care of them from the grave than taking care of us. To make peace, I am about to go see a financial planner. My heart tells me it is not the right thing to do. We have a good relationship. What is your position on this matter?
A: To the extent that your wife wants to get things sorted out now, I believe that is a sensible idea. Far too often, especially when there are later marriages and children on both sides from prior marriages, things can get sticky if the husband and the wife are not clear on what they want to happen to their assets after their death.
As an example, assume you and your wife had wills and the terms provide that you would leave your estates to one another, each assuming that the other is certain to be sure that the children of both of you are fairly treated after the surviving spouse dies.
If you die before your wife, and she receives all of the assets, she is free to do whatever she wants with those assets. She could leave everything - including anything she inherited from you - to her son and your son would receive nothing.
You could certainly view that as her prerogative, just as you might want it to be your prerogative to do with the assets as you want should she predecease you.
In my experience, however, absent estrangement or ill feelings between the parents and their children, most couples with children from prior marriages want to be sure that the children are, as much as possible, treated equally after the second spouse dies.
That does not mean, however, that you have to agree to an arrangement where the primary goal is to preserve assets for her son or your son, or both. Even though you might have different goals, you should openly discuss those goals and see how you can achieve them with some mutual compromise.
You both might not be able to get everything you want, but talking with a financial planner and an attorney who does estate planning is prudent and could avoid potential disagreements after your death.