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Sweetheart Wills Aren’t Sweet

Legal Matters


Presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning Community Partner Logo 20 Years 150x150

Love may be in the air this February, but that doesn’t make sweetheart wills any better. When a couple has matching wills that give everything to their spouse with little regard to the next step, lawyers call them sweetheart wills, and it is not an endearment.

Sweetheart wills were once very common, but times have changed. Couples live longer, and second marriages are much more common. Grown or minor children are now often a combination or hers, his, and theirs. The result is that sweetheart wills may not be appropriate.

Lawyers may now advise including children beneficiaries in the first wills along with the surviving spouse. Or, lawyers may advise that the assets be used during the surviving spouse’s life, but that the assets go to the specified children after the spouse dies.

A few examples may help you understand how sweetheart wills can go wrong. Let’s say George and Julie are married later in life and set up sweetheart wills. George dies leaving everything to Julie and nothing to his two daughters. Julie’s will specifies that everything goes to George and nothing to her son, Bob.

Scenario 1:  A year later, Julie revises her will to leave everything to Bob, her son from her first marriage. George’s daughters will inherit nothing.

Scenario 2:  Bob, Julie’s son from her first marriage, has financial problems, and Julie uses the bulk of George’s estate bailing Bob out. When Julie dies, George’s two daughters inherit nothing.

Scenario 3:  Julie marries Harold and revises her will to leave everything to Harold, via another sweetheart will. When she dies, both of George’s daughters and her son Bob inherit nothing.

If you haven’t updated your estate plans in the last three to five years, review it and make sure you don’t have any “sweetheart will” terms that no longer meet your family situation. Then talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about better options.

-Melanie B. Holliman, JDLegal Matters bradford Holliman head shot Melanie Bradford 07 cropped print

Partner at Bradford & Holliman

Estate Planning, Trusts & Special Needs


No representation is made that the quality of the legal service to be performed is greater than the quality of service performed by other lawyers.

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