A Second Step
Nearly one-fourth of all married spouses have been married before, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Remarriage is becoming more common, as are blended families. But remarriage presents unique complications in estate planning, as your family structure—and your intended beneficiaries—change. To ensure your wishes are current and clear, here are some tips to consider when estate planning after remarriage.
Before we get into the practical tips, know that you should address estate planning issues sooner rather than later. When planning for a second marriage, you have a lot of things to do and decisions to make. But overlooking the importance of updating your estate plan is a mistake. If you die before updating your plan, your new spouse could have an uphill battle in court ahead of him or her. Provide peace of mind, and don't wait to update your estate plan.
Open It Up to Discussion
Upon remarriage, it's important to talk to your current spouse about estate planning. If your spouse was previously married, he or she may need to update some beneficiary designations or review his or her divorce decree to see if it has any bearing on your current estate planning efforts. This is a task best done together, with all your estate planning documents, titles, policies, prenups, QDROs, and divorce judgments at hand. It's important to first figure out your legal obligations pertaining to your first marriage before you start bequeathing assets to your second spouse.
Now is the time to update your beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts. And take care to ensure any secondary beneficiaries reflect your current wishes. If you fail to update beneficiaries, your assets could pass to your former spouse.
Across the board, make sure you clearly write out your wishes for all your assets. Don't just use terms such as “children” or “spouse” if there could be any room for confusion. And, if challenged in probate court, a judge who only has a few documents at hand to make a decision off of very well could misinterpret your decisions. Don't leave your estate to this fate.
Consider the Children
This is one area of estate planning that can drum up some difficult decisions when you remarry. You may both have children from previous marriages and could even plan to have kids together. You'll have to decide what you want to leave to whom—and how. Leaving all your assets to your present spouse won't necessarily work out in the favor of your children from a previous marriage. Don't assume everyone will agree on how to divide your assets when you die. Make these decisions now, and clearly state them in your estate plan.
Remember the Real Estate
Real estate is another tricky area of estate planning after remarriage. If you came into your second marriage with a home from your first marriage, your new spouse might not be on the title, which can make it difficult for him or her to assume ownership upon your death. You might want to get joint tenancy with rights of survivorship for your new spouse if he or she is not already on the title.
Good estate planning can protect your current spouse's interests and ensure your wishes are carried out as intended. But remarriage can make estate planning complex and a lengthy and expensive probate case a more likely outcome when you die. You can, however, avoid these possible complications with proper estate planning guided by an experienced estate planning attorney. Consult with a California estate planning attorney if you have any questions about planning your estate upon remarriage.
Do you need to update your estate plan? Fresno area estate planning attorney Christopher Martens can help you carefully plan your estate to preserve wealth and protect your loved ones' interests. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to help you ensure your wishes are carried out properly. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide strategic estate planning guidance. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.