Is Spouse Automatically Your Beneficiary?

If the surviving spouse is a second or subsequent spouse and did not have any children with the decedent, the surviving spouse takes even less.
Is Spouse Automatically Your Beneficiary?

Is your spouse automatically your beneficiary if you die? Believing that your surviving spouse will automatically inherit all of your worldly goods may not work out as you might assume. The laws of intestacy work differently, as explained in a recent article “Estate Planning: The spouse doesn’t always get everything” from nwi.com. The truth is that the surviving spouse rarely receives everything under the intestate laws. This often comes as a surprise to people. The usual response is “Oh, that can’t be right.” Oh, but it is!

In many states, one half of the decedent’s probate assets are distributed to the spouse and the other half are distributed to the decedent’s child or children. If it’s a second or third marriage and the couple didn’t have children of their own, the surviving spouse ends up with even less. Bear in mind the intestate laws only apply to probate assets. Assets owned jointly will go to the designated joint owner, as well as any assets listing the surviving spouse as the beneficiary.

If you’d prefer to leave more to your spouse, you need to have a will. Intestacy literally translates to “dying without a will”. So, if you have a will and then die, you haven’t died intestate, and the provisions thus don’t apply.

However, there’s more to consider. Depending on your state’s laws, if you die and there are no living children, the spouse still doesn’t necessarily inherit everything. If your parents are living, they are also entitled to a portion of the estate. This is another reason why it’s so important to have a complete estate plan, including a last will and testament, powers of attorney and health care power of attorney.

Trusts are used to control how assets are distributed, either during life or upon death. You can create a trust to be used by your spouse by creating the trust, funding it with assets and setting the terms of the distribution.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your spouse is automatically your beneficiary. To determine what would actually happen to your spouse if you don’t have a will, give your estate planning attorney in Davie, Florida a call. With your attorney’s assistance, it will be very easy to get started on a plan to protect your spouse and your children.

Reference: nwi.com (Oct. 23, 2022) “Estate Planning: The spouse doesn’t always get everything”

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