A second marriage may affect estate planning

Although estate planning and divorce are two separate areas of the law, the prospect of a second marriage can necessitate an interdisciplinary approach from both.

For example, when remarriage happens later in life, an individual may have children and substantial property from the first marriage to protect. Without a consultation with an attorney who is familiar with estate planning, plans for heirs might be unintentionally compromised.

In the case of separately owned real property brought to a second marriage, it may seem like an expression of faith and love to add the other spouse to the title. Yet in the event the other spouse survives the original property owner, the property might pass to that spouse -- and his or her heirs, rather than the original owner’s children.

Of course, an attorney knows that the rules of intestacy generally apply only as a default, in the event that a will does not exist. Fortunately, both wills and trusts can be used to control which heirs will inherit property. Although estate planning may not make the short list of to-do items for an upcoming second wedding, it should not be put off for very long.

In the same vein, any existing beneficiary designations in retirement and life insurance accounts must be updated after a second marriage. Such policies often require a beneficiary to be directly named. If the named individual is a former spouse, even a subsequent will or trust document may not be able to override the existing beneficiary designation. Fortunately, an attorney who focuses on estate planning will have insight to offer in these areas.

Source: USA Today, “Remarrying in retirement? Look before you leap,” Rodney Brooks, May 20, 2014


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