A spouse is often the primary beneficiary of a last will and testament, and in many cases, receives the entire estate. However, depending on the circumstances, the spouse may receive a lesser amount. Sometimes the spouse is not given outright control of some of the assets; the assets are instead distributed by a trust or other method.

Get started Start Your Estate Planning Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.


The size of your estate and the needs of your family are important in deciding how much of the estate should go to your spouse. The more substantial the size of your estate, the more likely it is that you will not direct all of your assets to your spouse. How much to give to your spouse depends on your spouse's needs. Factors to consider are:
  • The possibility that your spouse’s needs will increase in the future
  • The manner of living to which your spouse has become accustomed
  • The ability of your spouse to provide for his/her needs from his/her assets and earning ability
  • The needs of children, elderly parents, or other persons that you may feel an obligation to support
Consider whether your spouse should receive your assets outright, or with some limitations. If your spouse’s share should be limited, you may wish to consider the use of trusts for the benefit of your spouse. The following factors may be important:
  • Remarriage: Consider the likelihood that your spouse would remarry after your death, and the possible effect on your children and/or other beneficiaries.
  • Asset Management: Consider whether your spouse has the ability or the inclination to manage the assets that he/she would receive from your estate.
  • Control of Final Distribution: Consider to what extent you wish to control the disposition of the assets that remain after your spouse’s death.
You also need to consider the needs of children, elderly parents, or other persons that you may feel an obligation to support.  You should consider whether your spouse is likely to provide such support from the share that you provide to him/her.

Get started Start Your Estate Planning Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Estate Planning Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.