This article is part two of a  two-part series.

To understand why you may want to avoid a life estate please click here on The Mistakes of Life Estates before reading the rest of this article.


Generally, it can be a bad idea to bring in blended ownerships to a single item.

Any better solutions?

  • You could leave your house to the wife.
  • Compensate your children for the loss of that asset by:
    • Naming them as the beneficiary on your IRA
    • Naming them as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy
    • Making some other bequest directly to them

That compensates perhaps for the economic interest in the home. But a lot of times, particularly just following a death, there’s a lot of emotional attachment to a home or real estate.

Dealing With Emotional Attachments

Make sure to pay attention to any personal property items that were original to the family.

You could also build something where, if the surviving spouse were to sell, that there needs to be a waiver from the kids that they don’t want to buy the property.

Benefits of Including a Third Party

What if you brought in a third party?

And you leave your house and money in a trust. The trust is irrevocable, it can’t be changed, the trust is for the benefit of the wife. And the money is there to be used to pay the taxes and the insurance and the upkeep and the maintenance. And all those decisions are going to be made by an independent third party.

This leaves everyone on equal footing. At least with this option, the family is upset at the third party rather than each other.

The good thing is that the third party does not care if a family member is upset.

They have to do what is morally right and in good business practice. So they’re going to do what’s right on behalf of everybody.

Postnuptial Agreements

Here is another alternative in a scenario.

Let’s say that a remarried husband and wife both own separate homes.

  • They both also have separate families.
  • They both agree to leave one of their homes to the other's family.
  • Both of their wills match up with this.

The husband dies and leaves his home to his children, not his wife. He did not give his wife interest in the home at all.

Here is the problem. That will cannot override the surviving spouse’s rights under the law to still claim an interest to live in that home.

If the wife has Alzheimer’s, she may not be able to uphold the agreement made with her husband. Then you may have to deal with her children who may want the house.

To fix this problem, you would sign a postnuptial agreement in addition to the will. This acts like a prenup but is created after a couple marries.

How We Can Help

In conclusion, it can be difficult to uphold these unspoken agreements. Sometimes you may not even be dealing with the person whom you originally trusted in the matter.

It’s important to make sure that all of the holes are covered even after you are gone, and we are here to help.

For the full transcript where the information from this post originated, please visit Aging Insight’s podcast Estates – The Proverbial Trainwreck Over a Bundle of Sticks.

Ben King
Ben King helps clients in TX and AR with estate planning, asset protection, probate, and medicaid planning.
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