Mirror, mirror?

I see a lot of couples who come in to do their estate planning together. Usually, it is a first marriage for both, and they want to leave their entire estate to each other. This is a situation where it often makes sense for them to see me as a couple. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t.

When you see the same lawyer as a couple, that lawyer has an obligation to disclose information shared with them to the other party. This includes years in the future, if you want to make any changes – you can’t do that with the same lawyer without your spouse’s consent. As long as you are both married to each other and both alive, that lawyer is conflicted out of doing anything for only one of you on the same matter.

One solution is to do two separate retainers – you each do your wills with the same lawyer, but individually. This allows you to change your wills in the future. This would make more sense in the situation of a second or later marriage where you might want to leave assets to someone other than your spouse.

Ultimately, this is a question to discuss with your lawyer, before you go ahead with will instructions.