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Dave Says: When to Change Your Will & Testament

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Dear Dave,

My father is terminally ill, and my two brothers and I recently had a talk with dad about his estate. He wants everything, except his house, left to us. He would like it to go to his long-time girlfriend, but it’s not written that way in the will. Should we have the will changed to reflect this desire?

Dan

Dear Dan,

I’m really sorry about your dad. I know this isn’t easy for you guys, but I’m glad you’re all working together to make things right. Yes, the will needs to be changed to reflect his wishes where the house is concerned. If he is still of sound mind and able to make that decision independently, the will should describe exactly what he wants to happen with every piece of his estate.

There is an alternative though. It’s fine if he simply wants to give her the house. But he could also leave her a life estate that says she gets the use of the home as long as she’s alive. Then, upon her death, it would revert to you. Essentially, the house would be left to you, but she would have use of it during her life.

This is a more traditional approach in these kinds of situations, but it’s your dad’s will and his estate. He can do whatever he wants. But remember, if he deeds the house to you and you give it to her, you’ll have a gift-tax situation on your hands. You don’t want to get into that mess!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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