Estate planning and second marriages

People entering a second marriage may have important assets such as savings, a home or a business. They may also have children from a prior marriage whose interests they want to protect.

Your estate plan can help you plan for contingencies such as death and incapacity when your life changes. It can also ensure that your assets go to the people you want to have them.

Planning for the unexpected

There are special estate-planning considerations for people who marry a second time. Here are just a few examples:

  • Is your spouse from your first marriage still named as your beneficiary under your will? As your agent under a power of attorney and living will? If so, you may want to change that.
  • If you have children, are their interests protected? If you die before your new spouse, assets you wanted to go to your children could go to your new spouse instead. Your spouse could disinherit your children in favor of his or her children.
  • Are your beneficiary designations as you want them for life insurance policies and retirement savings accounts? Each account and policy will have a separate beneficiary designation, and you may have forgotten to update or more.
  • If you own a business, who would you want to run it if you die or become incapacitated?
  • Who would you want to make financial and personal care decisions for you if you are incapacitated?
  • If you die, who will receive the assets you owned before your marriage?
  • What will happen to your assets if your marriage ends in divorce?

You may assume that the assets you bring to a second marriage will still be yours if you divorce your spouse. This may not be the case. Your separate property can become marital property based on the things you do with those assets after your marriage. For example, if you refinance your home and add your spouse's name to the deed, it will become marital property.

To avoid unintended consequences if you die before your new spouse, become incapacitated, or divorce, it's important to review your estate plan with an experienced attorney before you enter a second marriage.

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