Q: How should I update my estate plan before I remarry? -Betrothed spouse to be
A: Dear Betrothed: Everyone deserves a second chance at happiness. Many people enter into second marriages with hopes of harmony and a new life. Proper estate-planning in preparation for a second (or third!) legal union will help avoid mishaps that may interrupt your happily ever after.
The first step to ensuring your marriage is legally secure is having a productive conversation about your estate plan. Some people fail to update their estate plan before they remarry, leaving their new spouse in a precarious position. If something were to happen before an estate plan is updated, the old beneficiary (oftentimes, inadvertently still the first spouse) stands to benefit from the estate plan while the new spouse may be left facing a bitter court battle.
Review the estate plans you created while in your previous marriage. You may have certain obligations to your former spouse or children from your previous marriage that should be discussed with your spouse to be.
Along those same lines, make sure you are clear on what each of you is bringing into your new marriage regarding children, possessions, and wealth. Depending on your state, the assets you bring into your second marriage may be transmuted into shared assets. If you want to keep certain assets separate, your wishes should be clearly stated in writing. Set up separate accounts to ensure the assets do not legally commingle with your new spouse’s assets or shared assets you might acquire together. Make sure you work with a lawyer as laws on separate and community property vary from state to state.
Determine what your goals and wishes are for your joint family. Discuss how you want to provide for all your children—biological or step—and any other family members you have continuing obligations to. You might also need to address guardianship of children from your first marriage or children your spouse is bringing into your second marriage. Update your estate plan to reflect your wishes, and make sure you thoroughly review accounts to update all beneficiary designations as appropriate. Consider setting up trusts to ensure your children, both from your first and subsequent marriages, are left with assets that your surviving spouse will not have control over.
Implement change before you remarry to ensure you protect and provide for your new spouse. Failing to update your estate plan when you remarry puts the financial security of your new spouse at risk and sets your family up for probate court battles. Updating your estate plan will spare your loved ones from being left with nothing. And never assume state law will protect your new spouse. You need to clearly state your wishes in your estate plan to ensure they are legally protected no matter where you live.
If you want to protect your wishes, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®. A Personal Family Lawyer®, can walk you step by step through creating a legally sound estate plan that will protect and provide for your new spouse and your family.