In the United States, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end up in divorce. It is, therefore, no secret that many people are entering second marriages. As a result, people need to be aware of the estate planning consequences associated with getting remarried. Not only will you have assets to worry about (e.g., cars, real property, money, etc.), but you may also have to consider the merger of the families and potentially, new children down the road. It can be a complicated proposition to be in, and it is important to have a plan in place if the time comes to walk down that aisle once more.
A good place to start would be with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help you update your documents and assess any potential issues with re-tying the knot. Typically in first marriages, couples are on an even playing ground. Often couples are young, are just starting their careers, and share everything. Previous estate planning goals may have been concerned with taking care of the surviving spouse and then disbursing the remainder to the children (if any). Because most assets are shared, this was an easy enough scheme to follow.
Second marriages, on the other hand, typically involve older individuals who are bringing various assets and property into the marriage. One spouse may be more well-off than the other. Under that scenario, couples may opt for a prenuptial agreement in order to keep certain property separate. Thorough estate planning also contemplates the laws of the state in which you live regarding which property is held jointly between the married couple and which is considered to be held individually. More often than not, property brought into the marriage will be held individually, unless otherwise specified in an agreement. Before you talk to your estate planning attorney, you should also talk to your new spouse about what property you want to hold individually and what property you would like to share. Finally, if there is a prenuptial agreement in place, do not forget to bring that document with you to your estate planning attorney’s office.
Not only do spouses bring property and other assets into a second marriage, but they also may bring in liabilities from the first marriage. If during your spouse’s divorce, he or she had to sign away some portion of his or her retirement, bank accounts, and proceeds from the house, then that should be a major concern for the new spouse. The new spouse may be expecting to share in the assets, but in reality, the new spouse may not be entitled to any of it. That is why it is important to have a competent and diligent attorney to assess your financial situation when updating your estate planning documents.
Furthermore, second marriages may also involve the blending of families. This situation can make the distribution of assets and property at death a much more emotional and contentious process. A great deal of consideration should be taken when determining what the children of the first marriage will receive, in comparison with the children of the second marriage. Do you want all of your children to get the same amount of money? Because the children of your second marriage are younger, do you want them to receive more money than your potentially older and more established children? Do you want to set up a trust account for each child or do you prefer to bequest equal cash distributions all at once?
Your attorney will discuss various scenarios and provide all the options to help you reach your goals. These are serious considerations that require time, thought, and an open discussion with your family. These issues may seem overwhelming, but once you sit down and decide what you want for your future, you will be genuinely relieved. If you have any questions or want to update your estate planning documents, contact the attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP. You can contact us by clicking here or by calling us at (305) 981-8889.