If you are in a second or third marriage and have children from previous relationships, very careful estate planning is necessary to keep the peace while you’re alive and avoid litigation after your death.
Tips for Using Estate Planning to Keep the Peace in a Second Marriage
- Communicate. Let your loved ones know that they are protected by and provided for in your estate plan.
- Update. Update your estate planning when your family changes.
- Honor Prenuptial Agreements and Promises. If you have a prenuptial (or post-nuptial) agreement or have promised your spouse that you will do something for him/her in your estate plan, do it.
- Avoid Joint Ownership. If you are in a second marriage, you will most likely need trust planning; your trust should own your assets. Do NOT own assets in joint tenancy with your spouse, unless you want your spouse to inherit them. Jointly tenancy assets held with your spouse will disinherit your children if you are the first to die.
- Consider Planning That Won’t Make Your Children Wait. In some cases, it may make sense not to make children from a previous relationship wait until your spouse dies to inherit. Without careful planning, making your children the remainder beneficiary of a trust for your spouse may cause conflicts between them. Every dollar your spouse spends may be questioned and disputes and litigation may arise unless careful planning is used.
- Be Specific about Personal Possessions. Your children would, likely, appreciate inheriting personal items, family pictures, family heirlooms and the like. Be sure that all of your personal possessions don’t go automatically to your spouse. Either pass these items while you’re alive or make a list of things to go to your children (and include the list in your estate plan.)
If you’re in a second or third marriage and have children from a previous relationship, get thorough legal advice from a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney and follow these tips to keep peace in the family. Failing to plan will inevitably lead to more conflicts and higher legal costs as your survivors are left to fight over your estate.