Divorced Couple Rethinks Estate Planning after Cancer Diagnosis

Case Study by Bill Schaaf, Walnut Creek

A 60-year old Antioch woman came in to our Walnut Creek office because she needed assistance creating Living Trusts Bill Schaaf, Walnut Creekfor both herself and her ex-husband. “Anna” and “George” divorced seven years ago after more than 20 years of marriage and three grown children.

Now, it seems, they have become each other’s best friends

This happens more often than you might think. People share many experiences as they build their careers and raise their children together. Once the day-to-day pressure of living together is removed, we often hear about couples rediscovering the reasons they got together many years before and rethinking their relationship.

George’s struggle with cancer has been a wakeup call for this couple

Anna is now there for George as he struggles with terminal cancer. His treatment has given him hope, but he’s also realistic. He and Anna want to be prepared so that their children don’t have to deal with Probate when he dies.

Anna and George co-own two townhomes in the same Antioch neighborhood. They own the homes 50/50 as unmarried people; they’re listed on the title as joint tenants, which means that if one of them dies, the other automatically becomes the property’s owner.

Anna and George are considering separate Living Trusts, and as part of their Trusts, they will create Powers of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives, naming their younger daughter, “Amanda” as their Agent. Amanda is a CPA and lives close by, which makes her an ideal candidate. Being an Agent is a responsibility that can require a significant commitment, so we generally caution our clients to name someone who has availability. It also helps if it’s someone who has a facility working with numbers, as it’s often necessary to manage financial accounts.

There are other issues on the table for this couple as they complete their estate planning

  • If each creates a separate Living Trust, they will spend twice as much money.
  • Anna may be eligible to receive a portion of George’s pension when he dies.
  • If they remarried, they could create a joint trust, which would meet their requirements, including providing ownership succession for George’s home, Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive.
  • Most of all, if they remarried, Anna might be better positioned to receive a portion of George’s pension.

We printed a marriage-license request from the county recorder, and Anna took it with her as she went home to talk to George about the practical benefits of becoming man and wife again—nearly 30 years after they’d originally exchanged their vows.

If you’re working on an estate plan, a Living Trust is an important part of that planning. Call California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment today. You can also jumpstart the process with our easy-to-use, secure online storefront. We’re still available by phone and email if you have questions. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.