After the death of a spouse or a divorce, it is common for people to marry again. This is a wonderful blessing for any family and should be celebrated. But when it comes to your estate plan, a second marriage is not without its challenges.
We do not want to insinuate that is a bad thing. We just want the best for our clients, and it is important to understand that before this second marriage is celebrated, your estate plan must be reviewed and carefully crafted to meet the couple’s obligations and wishes for all the family members involved. Depending on your family dynamic, this could include:
- Existing children from the previous marriage
- New children from the current marriage
- Minor children from current or previous marriage
- Beneficiaries with special needs
- Adopted children and grandchildren
- New spouses
- Former spouses (in case of divorce)
In my book, Who Gets Your Stuff When You Die, I explain that a lack of planning and preparation can create unwanted turmoil, disagreements, hurt feelings, and money going to the wrong people. The best way to have a smooth transition upon disability or death is to create a comprehensive strategy before you are no longer here to execute the papers.
Case study: The argument for crafting an estate plan for a second marriage
If you are anticipating remarriage, the best time to review and adjust your estate plan is beforehand. If you have already remarried, the best time is now. Consider this scenario when it comes to crafting an estate plan for a second marriage:
A woman died after a brief illness, leaving her husband a widower after 50 years of marriage. They had three adult children who had all completed their education and embarked on their respective careers. After a brief time of mourning, the husband marries again. The children were concerned. Having recently lost their mother, they could not bear the thought of losing their father, too. Furthermore, they were aware of the complexities this new marriage was creating. Not only were they not close to their father’s new wife, but their mother had left all of her assets to her husband with the intention that he would leave them to their children after his death. No one thought about how this estate planning arrangement would be affected by a second marriage.
With the help of an estate planner, the children tactfully approached their father. With cooperation from the new wife, they set up the appropriate trusts to protect their interests and any children they may have, as well as provide for the new wife’s needs. The new wife was also able to provide for her own children from a previous marriage with assets she owned prior to her marriage to their father.
A special plan
Thankfully, this scenario worked out for everyone involved. But there are other scenarios where it does not. And you do not want to find yourself in that situation. A special plan for a blended family like the one above would include a prenuptial agreement and a postnuptial agreement, along with a fully funded Revocable Living Trust. This would ensure that the assets are distributed as intended, and all parties would know it is according to the wishes of the benefactor. Furthermore, it allows you to make changes until your death or incapacity.
The following are a few questions you should address with your estate planning attorney regarding a second marriage:
- How is the successor trustee selected?
- Should the surviving spouse be the trustee?
- How will the successor trustee feel about the surviving spouse?
- How can the surviving spouse be prevented from changing the deceased spouse’s beneficiaries?
- How would the children feel about the step-parent spending their inheritance?
- What is the relationship between the successor trustee and the surviving spouse and/or the children?
- How do you ensure that the succession plan will go as intended?
- How will the assets earned during the marriage be distributed?
- How should the required retirement plan distributions be made?
- How long should the children wait to receive their money, especially if the surviving spouse is only a few years older than the children?
By addressing these issues now, you will have a greater peace of mind. You can ensure that your goals, aspirations, and desires be honored when you can no longer oversee them yourself.
Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!
Do you have questions about an estate plan for a second marriage? Having a competent estate planner in your corner will help you and your family navigate the often overwhelming waters that come with protecting everything you own and every-one you love. That is our job, and we would like to think we do it better than anyone else. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure you and your family are taken care of in the best way possible.
Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.
Thanks for reading!