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Joint or separate estate planning representation?

One of the reasons that cookie-cutter estate planning methods don't exist is because families are all different. Some are traditional families while others have a blended dynamic in which stepparents and half siblings are involved. The more intricate the family, the more tedious the estate planning process can be. After all, proper estate planning could be the deciding factor in keeping a family intact once one member has passed away.

Estate planning is a process that couples can choose to take on together or separately, depending on what they are hoping to achieve and how well they are at communicating with each other. Acting together or by yourself has its share of advantages.

For instance, if a couple hires one estate planning lawyer to represent both of them, that couple would be able to save money and work more efficiently. Without going back and forth from one lawyer to the other, couples will be expected to communicate efficiently and work together to brew up an estate plan that appeases both sides.

When this simply cannot happen, it is better that each spouse hires his or her own legal representation. This way, both sides can bluntly state their wishes and concerns without having to worry about what the other side thinks. An individual knows their personal best interests will be served if they get their own lawyer.

Having separate legal representation is often an appropriate route for blended families where many different interests are at stake. Some suggestions that a couple might want to seek separate estate planning lawyers are when:

  • Only one member of the couple has kids
  • One side is rich and the other is financially struggling
  • The relationship is still very young
  • There is a big age difference
  • One side heavily depends on the other financially

These are scenarios where both sides may not see eye-to-eye on key estate planning issues and could benefit from separate estate planning assistance.

Source: Forbes, "Estate planning for couples: Should it be a solo or a duet?," Deborah L. Jacobs, April 10, 2012

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