You’re doing your estate planning, and your child is married. You want to leave a certain amount of money to the couple, hoping that they can use it to buy a home, raise a child or perhaps retire themselves.
But do you need to name both your child and their spouse in your estate plan? Or should you just leave the money to your child on their own?
The risk of naming their spouse
You certainly can do whatever you would like, but there is a risk to specifically naming a spouse as a beneficiary in your estate plan. Typically, an inheritance is considered separate property that is owned only by the person who received it. If you just name your child, and they do not commingle that inheritance by sharing it with their spouse, then it is their own financial asset.
This matters if they get divorced. In the case of a divorce, their ex would likely not be able to take your inheritance money as part of the property division process. Again, this can be changed if they commingle the inheritance, but you at least give them the option.
When you name their spouse directly and leave them money, that asset belongs to the spouse alone. If the couple gets divorced in the future, the ex gets to keep the money, which then does not actually stay in your family.
Now, it’s natural to assume that your child and their spouse will not get divorced if they seem happy in their marriage, but estate planning is for the future. You want to make sure that you consider all potential outcomes, no matter how unlikely, and set up a plan that really accomplishes your goals.