How to decide if you should get your own attorney or work with your spouse for estate-planning purposes

According to a recent post on, the importance of estate planning for married couples cannot be stressed enough. The seriousness of such forward thinking is even more critical in blended families which tend to present more opportunities for volatility following the death of a parent.

The first issue for all couples to resolve is whether to be represented jointly by the same estate planner or for you each to go it alone. While joint representation can be more cost-effective, it can mean that both parities don’t have the freedom to speak up about their individual concerns. Unless there is healthy communication between the spouses joint representation can be a recipe for disaster.

The following are some good rules of thumbs to consider when deciding whether you need your own or joint representation:

• Only one of you has children. Most people want to leave their estate to their children but if the other spouse has no children of their own then the parent may fear dying first and leaving their kids with nothing.

• Rich spouse, poor spouse. A large disparity in income between spouses can effect joint planning and may be a good reason to go your own way.

• One of you does all of the talking. If one party dominates the other in the planning phase this could be a sign of communication problems to come. As a result the one spouse may not feel happy with the final deal and an estate planner should recognize this discrepancy in power between the parties and consider pursuing separate representation.

• Length of the relationship. The shorter the relationship, the greater reason to get separate attorneys.

• The number of past relationships. Another pretty solid rule of thumb is that the greater the number of past relationships one, or both of you, have had, the greater the chance that you need separate estate-planning representation.

• Large age difference. The greater the age difference between you, the greater the need to consider separate representation as you both are in very different places in your lives and face unique concerns.

The decision to get separate lawyers seems like an exclusively financial one but hits on many relationship issues between the parties. Estate planning can be a stressful process which is why you should consult with an experienced Huntsville estate planning attorney to help you fashion a plan you can be happy with. If you have questions or concerns contact the attorneys at Martinson & Beason, P.C. today.

Source: “Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?,” by Deborah L. Jacobs, published at