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Jan. 17, 2022, 11:21 a.m. EST

‘This has really come out of left field’: My wife and I are in our 60s. Our will should have been routine — and it was, until one final item

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By Quentin Fottrell

Dear Quentin,

My wife and I are in our 60s and have been happily married for over 30 years. Recently, we decided we needed to polish up our will and are doing it with an online service. 

We have always been on the same page about most everything in life. Our will should have been routine, and it was, until just one item. 

It is a no-brainer that we would leave our entire estate in equal percentages to our children if something should happen to us. Cashing everything out today would total about $3 million. 

What happens if all of us are in a horrible accident and none of our immediate family survives? My wife put in her will that our estate should be equally divided among her siblings and mine. 

Well, she has more than twice the number of siblings as me, so three-quarters of our estate would go to her side of the family. This just doesn’t sit well with me, as I think it should be a 50/50 split. 

I get that my siblings would individually receive more than twice the amount as hers, but I still think the 50/50 split is the right thing to do.

We have never had any money issues between us, but this has really come out of left field and is quite sensitive. I haven’t signed mine yet and am having a hard time bringing this up with her.  

I don’t want to have an argument over something that most likely will never happen. Should I just sign and be done with this, since the chances of this ever playing out are extremely remote?

Wanting to Do the Right Thing

Dear Wanting,

It is a very unlikely scenario that your entire family would end up perishing in an accident, but you’re correct to account for all scenarios, given the amount of money involved.

For that reason, it’s unfortunate that you have reached an impasse over this issue. You obviously love your siblings and want to make sure they receive equal shares.

Distribute those shares from your respective halves of your joint estate. That is, $1.5 million goes to your siblings and the same for your wife.

It’s the most equitable solution, but it may not be the smartest solution for a happy life. It’s better to have a happy life than risk it on principle for a highly unlikely death scenario.

If you’re going to give up ground, let it be for this. If this disagreement concerned guardianship of your children, that would be a different matter entirely.

One other point you allude to in your letter: You talk about a “will” rather than “wills.” Making a joint will can bring up a host of unforeseen consequences.

Assuming one of you dies first, you will likely have to make a subsequent will, and a joint will that prohibits changes if one spouse dies would complicate that. You may face a new set of unforeseen circumstances, such as educating grandchildren, setting up a trust for an adult child, or entering a second marriage.

“Some states don’t even recognize them, so if you end up moving to another state, a joint will may become invalid,” according to the Law Offices of John Mangan . “Even in states that do permit a joint will, they are challenged much more often, which may result in your final wishes not being honored.”

Ultimately, your predicament is one of luxury: You have enough money for retirement, and will likely have plenty to leave your children.

Stay safe and healthy, and Happy New Year.

<STRONG>Yo<EMPHASIS>u <STRONG><EMPHASIS><STRONG>can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://twitter.com/Quantanamo">Twitter.</INTERNET></STRONG></EMPHASIS></STRONG></EMPHASIS></STRONG>

<STRONG>Check out <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET></STRONG>   <STRONG>group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.</STRONG>

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell :

•  ‘Our friends always yearned for a relationship like ours’: My husband of 16 years left me for another man. I don’t want them to live in our properties. What can I do? •  ‘She trusts me completely’: My sister offered to pay off my credit-card bill. I’ll repay her over the next 4 years. Am I taking advantage of our relationship? •  ‘He is the most computer-illiterate person I know’: I was my husband’s research analyst, caregiver, cook and housekeeper. Now he wants a divorce after 38 years.

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