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What Is A Sweetheart Will or Trust?  

Florida attorney L. Reed Bloodworth is Founder and CEO of Bloodworth Law, an Orlando and Winter Haven law firm founded in 2016.

What Is A Sweetheart Will or Trust?  

What is a sweetheart will or trust? Reed explains that “it’s a commonly used trust or estate planning device whereby spouses, or couples, design their will or trust, or the combination of the two, to leave the other spouse everything upon one of their deaths.”

A Sweetheart Will Or Trust Is An Estate Planning Device

“So for example,” Reed said, “if the husband passes away first, his will and or trust would leave everything to his wife.

“The second part of that is a typical sweetheart will, or sweetheart trust, in addition to leaving everything to each other, upon the death of one in the couple, upon the death of the second spouse, everything is typically then divided amongst the children.”

Leave All Possessions To My Wife/Husband

“So, the husband’s will, or trust, would say essentially, ‘upon my death, I leave all of my possessions to my wife.’

“First, it would say, ‘if I predecease my wife, then all of my possessions are hereby bequeathed, and left to my wife.’”

All Possessions Are Left To My Children

“And then it would say, ‘however, if my wife predeceases me, upon my death, all of my possessions are left to my children, in this fashion.’ And that could be in equal shares or different percentages,” he said. “But that is the typical makeup of a sweetheart will or sweetheart trust.

“They’re common and there are not many problems with that style of estate planning.”

Problems After Widowed Spouse Gets New Estate Plan

Reed said that “problems arise when the children are under the impression that these estate plans are going to remain in place after one of the parents dies.

“Let’s say after Dad dies, everything goes to Mom. Well, then Mom goes and gets a new estate plan. And maybe doesn’t tell the children, and then you have the issue of, ‘well, she changed it, and she wrote one of the children out.’”

Biological Children vs. Stepchildren

“So there are a lot of situations after the first spouse passes away, where issues can arise,” Reed said. “That’s a big one: the biological children versus the stepchildren.

“That’s probably the biggest issue involved when one of the parents passes away,” he said. “Problems after a sweetheart will or trust occur after the widowed spouse has done new estate planning.

“You had the sweetheart will or trust. The parent got everything from that marriage. And then, that parent remarries, and then new estate planning is done. No one knows what’s in that estate planning.”

Parent Starts To Lose Their Mental Capacity

“And sometimes, that’s the situation where you see perhaps that parent starts to lose their mental capacity,” Reed said. “And, all of a sudden, new estate planning is prepared, where the biological children don’t get anything, and the stepmom, and oftentimes the stepmom’s kids, get it all.

“That can be problematic. So, it’s not necessarily the first step in the sweetheart will or trust that’s problematic. That’s common. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that.”

Second Spouse Can Do What They Want

“It’s after the first spouse dies, the second spouse then has the ability to do whatever they want with their estate planning,” Reed said. “And that’s when things can change and disagreements can come up amongst children, or whomever believed they were receiving an inheritance from those parents.

“And they don’t know until after someone has passed what will happen. But even that depends upon whether the kids or family are asking, or unless the parents tell them, or, the surviving parent tells them.”

Be Open About Your Estate Planning With Family

“That’s something I often advise my clients of, is to be open about your estate planning with your family, so that there really aren’t surprises,” Reed said.

“I know it can be a morbid topic, but I think a lot of issues that occur after the death of parents, or whoever else it may be, bequeathing something to someone. If conversations had been held while those people were alive, I think a lot of probate and trust litigation could be avoided.”

“I’m not saying all of it, obviously,” Reed said. “There’s always situations where you have bad actors, and they sweep in, and get estate planning drawn up at the last second. Those are different types of situations.”

Family Should Talk About Estate Planning

“But when we’re talking about a family unit, even in the case of divorces — you need to talk about it,” Reed said. “And it can be difficult, but it’s something that I would encourage people to do.

“I think it really would help avoid confusion, and surprise, and reduce the risk of litigation arising out of probate or a will, or a trust.”

About Bloodworth Law

Bloodworth Law, PLLC, is a 2022 U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Firm,” and features a team of skilled attorneys who handle trust litigation and probate and estate litigation for Florida clients.

If you have a legal dispute that needs to be addressed, talk to Reed and the team to find out how Bloodworth Law can help you, your family, or your business.

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