How do I leave assets to my children, and their heirs but not their spouses?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How do I leave assets to my children, and their heirs but not their spouses?

What is the legal way to make sure any money left to my grown children does not go to their spouses, in case of their own death. I want the money and assets to go to their children,my grandchildren my blood heirs. How should this be written up? Do the wives have to ‘sign off’ and promise to distribute funds to the children? How can this be enforced.
For example, if my son would die, I would not want his wife to inherit all the money, and remarry, and use the money frivolously.

Asked on June 15, 2016 under Estate Planning, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The only way to do this is to NOT leave the money to your children directly, since if the assets go to them, once they have them, they can do with them what they want--and if they pass, will go to their spouses if they will them to their spouses or (if there is no will) under the rules of intestate succession (who gets what, when there is no will). You can't control who gets assets they receive free and clear after your death.
Rather, set up a trust which will pay certain amounts either annually or when certain events occur (e.g. on graduation, on marriage, etc.) or under certain specified needs (e.g. for college; for medical care) to your childlren and other blood relatives (as defined in the trust). The trust can dole the money out on a controlled basis, under the parameters you decide, and only the money doled out at any given time is money your children could give to a spouse--the rest of the money, in the trust, is safe from the spouse(s) and will be given, as per the trust, to your blood relatives.
Any decent trusts and estates attorney can set up a trust like this for you.

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