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The value of a spouse in estate planning

The baby boomers living in the Harrisburg area are now retired or preparing for the day when they can stop working. Along with those plans are new or continued efforts for estate planning. The subjects of incapacitation or death can be uncomfortable, but many people recognize the necessity of making arrangements to pass worldly possessions onto the people they wish to have them.

The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy estimated a massive transfer of funds would take place out of estates of over 93 million U.S. citizens from 2007 to 2061. Wealth totaling about $59 trillion is in the process of being moved to pay estate-related bills and enrich heirs and beneficiaries. In many cases, the distributors of these assets -- the movers and shakers behind these transfers -- are surviving spouses.

There are good reasons spouses are chosen to perform these duties. In many cases, a spouse represents the most emotionally intimate relationship a person has. Through marriage, a spouse is tied directly to the estate's assets, the people most likely to benefit from them and the goals concerning the transfer of wealth.

Estate plans designations include roles for trusted individuals before and after death. A spouse may be named to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in case of incapacity. A spouse also can perform the duties of the executor of an estate or a trustee.

The person best suited to these jobs is fully aware of the intentions of an incapacitated or deceased person. Intentions are shared between individuals in close contact and with an extensive history, a description which frequently fits the spousal relationship.

There are instances when a spouse is not the right person for these important jobs, like possible family conflicts or a spouse's advanced age or ill health. You may discuss these issues openly with an estate planning attorney.

Source: MainStreet, "Why Your Spouse Should Be at the Center of Your Estate Planning," Jason Notte, May 27, 2015

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