Many married couples in New York assume that they do not need to write a will. Couples believe that when one spouse dies, everything will simply be passed to the surviving spouse. While this is in some cases true, these matters can be much more complicated when a couple has children. To ensure that there are no disputes between family members, it is always important for people to state their intentions clearly in a will.
When one spouse owns a house that the other spouse’s name is not attached to, it is important to add the spouse’s name to the deed . If this is not done before the homeowner dies, the surviving spouse will in some states only inherit the house as a ‘life estate.” This means that the surviving spouse may live in the home as long as they are alive, but they cannot sell it. After the owner of a life estate dies, the house goes to the original homeowner’s children.
Another problem that could arise when married people do not write wills involves financial accounts. If a family member puts their name on an elderly person’s bank account before they die, the family member could inherit everything in the account even if that was not the person’s intention before they died.
A lawyer may be able to help a married couple to write wills, set up trusts and create other estate planning documents to help them during their life. If a couple has not changed their wills for many years, an attorney may be able to help them update their wills so that they can take advantage of new estate planning tools.