Estate Planning and Subsequent Marriages

estate planning and subsequent marriages

Remarrying after divorce or death feels like a promising new beginning, but it can also present some legal hurdles. If you are recently remarried or plan to do so in the not-too-distant future, we encourage you to contact our firm for an estate planning evaluation. Proactive estate planning will reduce potential conflict among beneficiaries.

What unique concerns arise with estate planning and subsequent marriages?

Subsequent marriages present unique concerns that are not present with first marriages. These may include:

  • Beneficiary designations: You must update your beneficiaries on your 401k, retirement account, and life insurance policy. Many people leave their former spouse on these documents, which offers no protection to your new spouse. You can change the designation to your new spouse or to a trust. Be careful with survivorship designations for real estate and accounts; they can result in unintended consequences.
  • Titles: You should decide which assets are joint versus individual. Consider whether you want to retitle real estate or bank accounts. Especially with regard to premarital assets, if your new spouse is added to the home title or bank account as a joint tenant marital property rights can change.
  • Children: You must ensure fairness for your children and any forthcoming children. If you have adult children, you may consider making lifetime gifts, so you know they receive a fair share. For minor children, it is important discuss with your new spouse, who will manage the inheritance on the children’s behalf if one of you dies prematurely. Use life insurance as a tool to leave money to a new spouse and/or children from a prior marriage.
  • Outdated estate planning documents: If your current estate planning documents name your former spouse as a beneficiary or executor, you should change them immediately. You have no guarantee that they will treat your current spouse or children fairly.

When is the best time to adjust my estate plan?

The best time to adjust your estate plan is before you get married. You may also wish to consider a prenuptial agreement at that time—this way, you and your new spouse know what to expect financially in the new marriage.

If you are already re-married, consult with our estate planning attorneys as soon as possible. You must ensure your documents are updated properly.

How do I get started with changing my estate plan?

Start with these steps:

  • Take an inventory of assets and debts, including life insurance policies and retirement plans.
  • Discuss how you wish to handle finances and set some baselines with your spouse.
  • Discuss your final wishes, including disposition of property and how you will support any children from previous marriages.
  • Make an outline for yourself.
  • Change beneficiaries on retirement plans, annuities, and life insurance policies.

Once you finish these steps, schedule a consultation with our thorough and dedicated estate planning attorneys.

Call Dworken & Bernstein today for help with all your estate planning needs.

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