As a lawyer practicing in the elder law and estate planning industry for 25 years, I'm always intrigued by what lawyers refer to as remarriage protections. Remarriage protection relates to the provisions that one puts in a trust to ensure after a spouse dies and a surviving spouse remarries (or cohabitates) that the underlying estate plan of the deceased spouse is honored and maintained. The truth is that trust systems in the estate planning industry have little, if any, remarriage language or protections. The general protection that trust systems provide for remarriage is that if a spouse remarries, they allow you to discontinue payments of interest or principal to that spouse, and that's usually limited to the context in a family or marital trust. Wow, that's remarriage protection?
Hardly. In the Lawyers with Purpose Client Centered Software (LWP-CCS) system, there are layers of remarriage protections available to the client. First and foremost, the trust system tracks all of the benefits granted to a surviving spouse as you design the plan and import data into the trust system. Second, the trust system tracks all of the authority that you give a surviving spouse as trustee, trust protector, etc. Third, the LWP-CCS system allows you to identify what your client considers to be “remarriage.” In our default definition, the language identifies that a spouse will be deemed to be remarried after cohabiting for one night. The software also allows you to customize your own definition of remarriage, and once that definition is triggered you are then allowed to customize which of the powers or benefits that you have granted a surviving spouse will be modified or eliminated, along with any conditions for reinstatement.
For example, if a surviving spouse has been named trustee, the software knows that and asks you if you want to remove the right of the surviving spouse to be trustee upon marriage. Secondly, the trust software tracks all beneficial interests of the surviving spouse, and if you elect to have remarriage restrictions, the software will show you all the different places where the surviving spouse has retained a right to benefit from the trust. It will also ask if you want to minimize or eliminate any of those benefits individually, not collectively. That is, you can pick and choose which ones stay and which ones go.
Does this seem too good to be true? Well, it is if you have regular software, but the LWP-CCS software has been designed around the needs of the client, not the lawyers. The good news is, once you identify the needs of the client, the software will put in the necessary legal language to accomplish the objectives that you have identified for the clients. This is what being a Lawyer with Purpose means, and this is what client-centered software is all about. Don't go it alone. Let Lawyers with Purpose show you how to do real remarriage protection planning for clients.
If you aren't a Lawyers With Purpose member and are even thinking about adding estate or elder law to your existing practice, or want to make your estate/elder law practice more efficient, join us in the room in Houston this October 24th and 25th. Click here for the full agenda and to discover more of what you'll get from this program!
David J. Zumpano, Esq, CPA, Co-founder Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center