The Basics of “I Love You” Wills

The Basics of “I Love You” Wills

by Michelle Fabio, Esq., March 2015

If you have fairly straightforward estate planning needs and intend to leave everything you own to your spouse, you might be interested to learn more about “I love you wills.” While they might be a good idea for some, however, it’s important to understand potential disadvantages to using this kind of last will as well. What follows is a basic overview of “I love you wills.”

What is an “I Love You Will?”

Plainly put, an “I love you will” is a type of last will and testament used primarily by married couples through which each spouse leaves his or her entire estate to the other, and often, then to their children. The simple will language reads something like the following:

“Upon my death, I leave my entire estate to my spouse, and upon the death of my spouse, our assets go to our children.”

Seems easy enough, right? It can be, but there are always several factors to consider when writing a will, and especially if you are considering an “I love you will.”

Who Would Use an “I Love You Will?”

Although this type of will can be used by anyone, it is most often utilized by married couples who have basic estate planning needs—that is, couples who have modest estates worth well under the state and federal estate tax limits and who have decided they have no need to use living trusts.

Advantages of “I Love You Wills”

The biggest plus to drafting an “I love you will” is its simplicity—how much easier to understand can you get than a one-line last will and testament? Such a will would also certainly cut down on costs associated with drafting the document.

Another advantage to an “I love you will” is that the parties involved know exactly what will happen to their assets upon death, although certainly this is the case with any well-drafted will. After all, a major benefit of having any kind of will is the peace of mind you and your loved ones gain by knowing everything will be taken care of according to your wishes after you're gone.

Disadvantages of “I Love You Wills”

Unfortunately, even when there are no estate tax considerations, because of the value of the estate, the price to pay for the simplicity of “I love you wills” is that they may not take into account other intangible factors including the following:

  • Probate: Because an “I love you will” is just like any other will, it must go through probate, the court-supervised process of the distribution of assets, in order for your loved ones to receive anything from your estate.
  • Privacy: A will is public record, so if you want your estate details to remain private, an “I love you will” won’t accomplish that.
  • Other provisions: If you have minor children, for instance, your “I love you will” does not name a guardian for them. Your pets also would not be provided for through an “I love you will.”

On the other hand, all three of these concerns can be adequately handled through the use of trusts, whether they are revocable, irrevocable, or AB/ABC trusts for married individuals.

Time to Make a Will?

When you are ready to make a will, be sure to consider all the relevant factors, especially tax consequences, before deciding on the type of estate planning that is best for you—it just may end up being an “I love you will” for the time-being.

Whatever you choose, remember that it’s important to revisit your will annually to make sure you have provided for any change in circumstances such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces among your loved ones. Only then can your last will and testament truly provide the peace of mind regarding the distribution of your assets that it should.

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