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Common Estate Planning Scenarios

As an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, I see a wide variety of family and financial backgrounds among my clients.  Although variety is quite common, I have found that there are a few common estate planning scenarios which tend to repeat themselves.  This article will give you insight into these common scenarios and you can see whether they may apply to your case. 

Husband and Wife Estate Plan 

The most common client base that I see is a husband and wife creating an estate plan for themselves.  I generally see a few reoccurring scenarios for these clients. 

The scenario most often occurring with a husband and a wife is what is known as a “sweetheart estate plan.”  This is where my clients wish that all of their assets go to the surviving spouse and thereafter go to some named beneficiaries.  So, for example, if the husband were to pass away first, his share of their assets would go to his wife.  Upon the passing of the surviving spouse, clients often distribute their assets to their children, if any, or possibly to charity or another family member. 

I often see that assets are split equally between the children, whereas in other situations the estate will be split in such a way as to provide slightly more to one child (as perhaps a “thank you” for devoting more time and effort to the parents).  In other situations, a child may be disinherited.  Every family’s situation is unique and I often find myself in the role of “counselor at law” providing guidance to families as to how they may want to distribute their assets to their beneficiaries.  

Beyond the sweetheart estate plan, I have also worked with a number of husband and wife clients who have wanted their half of the estate to be distributed in other ways.  For example, sometimes they may want their half of the estate to go directly to their children, or in other situations to go directly to another family member or a charity.  

When I set up an estate plan for a husband and wife, I generally use the revocable living trust as the foundation.  I may create two separate trusts, each for husband and wife, or a joint trust, to reflect the fact that California is a community property state, as opposed to a separate property state (contrast with Oregon).  The structure I use depends on the needs of the married couple and their family.

An Individual Looking To Provide Security to Their Beneficiaries

The next most common scenario that I come across is an individual who is looking to provide protection for their assets to be distributed to their beneficiaries.  I often see clients who may have been previously married and may have children from that marriage.  Furthermore, I also work with a number of clients who are in long-term committed relationships, but are not married.  In these situations, we create an estate plan based on the needs of the individual.  Depending on their assets and their wishes, we may create an estate plan that features a revocable living trust, or one that features a will.  For individuals who own real estate, we generally create a living trust because it avoids the courts upon the individual’s passing.

Estate Plan Review

I also see plenty of clients who would like to have their estate plans reviewed for one of a number of reasons.  Sometimes, the estate planner that they were working with has retired and they need to make changes.  Other times, clients may have moved to California from a different state that had different estate laws and taxation.  I have also had certain clients come to me because their previous attorney was nonresponsive.  This unfortunately does happen and therefore it is important to work with someone who you feel cares about you and your family. 


As an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, I have seen a wide variety of estate details and families.  However, the examples that you see above are among the most common.  If you have any questions about your estate, please feel free to give us a call or send us a message.

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