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PERSONAL FINANCE

Controlling Property Beyond the Grave

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Q: I am married with no children and plan to leave a will in which my entire estate goes to my husband. If he predeceases me, I will direct my estate to specific charitable organizations. However, if he does inherit my estate, upon his death is there any way to redirect my former assets to those charitable organizations if he hasn't left a will?

A: As my perky Aunt Louise used to say: Anything is possible. But what you want will take a lot of custom drafting by an experienced estate planning lawyer. The reason your wishes require special treatment is that you are trying to control what may happen many years in the future if and only if your husband still has the property and decides not to include it in his will.

Those conditions require careful advance planning. Does your estate consist of tangible assets or does it consist mainly of liquid assets? What if your husband uses a living trust instead of a will to deal with the property? And the list of potential headachemakers goes on.

A more common arrangement--especially common in second marriages--is to leave property to the surviving spouse in trust, and have it go directly to the intended beneficiary when the spouse dies. This arrangement doesn't give the spouse any discretion to redirect the assets because it is all controlled by the trust you created. However, this arrangement also requires custom drafting, since you have to examine the estate and decide what happens if certain unexpected contingencies arise between the time you die and your husband dies. For example, you might want to provide that the assets could be used if needed to pay for a lifesaving operation.

My, I did go on. But you get the idea. You'll need some good professional help to accomplish your goals.

Copyright 1999 Nolo.com Inc.




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