Cinderella's blended familyIf you have children from a prior marriage, when you die your property will be co-owned by your spouse and children. I had a client several years ago whose husband owned a piece of land prior to them getting married. After they got married, they built a building on the property and she worked full-time creating a business on that land. He died suddenly without a will. When the probate court judge asked her if her husband had a will, she responded “No, he wasn’t planning on dying.”  Under the laws of intestate succession, she was entitled to 1/3 of the income from the business and 1/3 of the proceeds when the property was sold. This is probably not what she and her husband wanted to have happen. The only way to prevent this is to have a will in place that specifies who the property goes to on death.

A major decision in second marriages is how to divide the property to be fair to the spouse and children. If you leave it all to the spouse outright, then he or she decides who they want to leave it to next. The surviving spouse could spend it all and leave the children with nothing or leave it to someone other than the children. If you leave it all to the spouse for life, then the children receive nothing until the spouse passes away, and it could all be spent by the surviving spouse. Another choice is to leave some assets to the spouse and some to the children. One way to do this is to set your life insurance proceeds to go to the children or spouse and give the other assets to the other one.

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Leigh Hilton P.L.L.C