Beware of Biff and Bambi

By Dave Zumpano, Estate Planning Law Center

Joan and Bob recently met with a Medicaid Practice Network (MPN) attorney to determine what they need to consider in creating an estate plan.  Bob and Joan were in their mid 60s and had been married for 39 years.  They had three children and managed to accumulate about a half a million dollars in assets over their life time.  They are living comfortably on their Social Security and pension, and only access the income off of their assets when they wanted to splurge.

In order to help Joan and Bob determine the best plan, the MPN attorney took them through a series of 15 questions.  He also reviewed their current estate plan to identify which of the 15 estate planning issues their current plan accomplished.  As he identified multiple issues not currently provided for in their plan, he dug deeper to determine if the individual issues were significant to Bob and Joan.  The MPN attorney asked whether they were concerned about their spouse remarrying after their death.  Both responded with a laugh, and said not the least bit concerned and were confident that even if they did, they would never hurt the children.  Bob and Joan were confident they wanted to ensure what they had worked for their entire life, ultimately got to their children.

The MPN attorney explained that while they currently did not have these concerns, in his experience the emotional trauma one goes through with the loss of a loved one, often triggers reactions one cannot anticipate.  He encouraged them to consider implementing protecting against remarriage into their plan so a new spouse could not usurp the benefits of their lifetime of efforts from the children.  The MPN attorney jokingly referred to this risk as Biff and Bambi.  He further explained, he wanted to help them ensure the money did not end up with Biff, the pool boy, or Bambi, the barmaid.  Again, they laughed and assured him this was not a concern, and indicated it was not a priority and did not include it in their planning.

About nine months later, Joan was diagnosed with a serious cancer, and died three months after diagnosis.  Bob came into the office distraught, and the MPN attorney assisted him with conveying all of Joan's assets to his name.  About six months later, Bob returned giddy and happy with a young blonde woman, 20 years his junior.  He instructed the MPN attorney he wanted to change his estate plan to ensure if anything had happened to him, his new friend A was provided for.  The MPN attorney reminded Bob of the goals and objectives he had set with his original wife, and Bob replied not to be concerned he was very confident what he was doing.  The MPN attorney in good conscience told Bob he could not assist him in this matter, and required he seek other counsel.  Bob was disappointed, but immediately got up and left, and sought other counsel to accomplish his objectives. 

Each one of us knows a story of someone close to us, or a family friend, who lost their spouse while they were in their early retirement years.  We’ve also heard the story of when new found love creeps in and changes perspective of the surviving spouse.  This is a tragedy that does not have to happen.  With proper planning, the surviving spouse can get all the benefits of the estate without the risk of losing it to Biff or Bambi, with very little additional effort. 

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