Five Estate Planning Issues You Must Consider with a Second Marriage

Getting married for a second or third time is increasingly common in the United States. However, the complicated estate planning and financial issues can be anything but simple if you don’t schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer well in advance. There are many different issues that can emerge when it comes to blended families and second marriages. First of all, you may already have an estate plan in place from your previous marriage. There’s also a good chance that your former spouse was listed as a beneficiary on your retirement accounts and your life insurance policies. 

If you fail to update this information, by law those companies are required to give it to the person listed on the accounts. It is imperative that your estate plan be in conjunction with the other materials you have designed to pass on assets to people in the future such as your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Some of the critical issues that you need to discuss with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney when getting married for a second time include:

  • Community property versus common law
  • Ownership and expenses
  • Timing of inheritance
  • Remarriage protection
  • Use of the home

Consulting with a lawyer will help illuminate you on the various issues that can affect you and how to plan appropriately so that everyone is clear on their rights and responsibilities.

Estate Planning and Divorce in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County

When a divorce—also called a dissolution of marriage—is imminent, meeting with an estate planning attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County is likely not at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind that divorces can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible that you will not be happy with the outcome.

Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property that you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize that this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  A qualified will attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind that you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

Once a divorce has become final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes.  An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Mississippi is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after a dissolution of marriage.

Does Your Blended Family Need an Advanced Estate Plan?

With a high divorce rate, blended families are a norm in American society. Such families include a variety of dynamics: step-children, half-siblings, unmarried couples with children and more. A basic estate plan may be enough to cover your blended family, but there are many advantages of advanced estate planning that may suit your family situation better.

Avoid Disinheritance

Having an estate plan is important to make sure your loved ones receive the inheritance you wish to leave. If you do not have an estate plan, members of your blended family may be disinherited when you pass away. Estates with no Last Will and Testament must abide by state intestacy laws to determine heirs-at-law. If you are part of a blended family, there is a good chance some of your loved ones may not be your heir- by-law.

Once you have an estate plan in place, make sure it is comprehensive enough to protect the inheritance of your spouse and children. If you have a Will that leaves your entire estate to your spouse and he or she is not the biological parent of your children, your children may be disinherited. If you pass away first, your spouse will choose the future inheritors of your estate. With an advanced estate plan, you can create a special arrangement to safeguard your children’s inheritance.

Assist Probate

Through features such as Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, an advanced estate plan may help your blended family speed up or avoid the process of probate. If you use a basic estate plan with a Last Will and Testament, probate may take more time as blended families offer complicated family situations to deal with in the inheritance process.

Provide Flexibility

Many advanced planning devices, including Trusts, offer flexibility in the estate planning process. You can tailor a plan to fit the needs of every member of your blended family. A Last Will and Testament offers limited flexibility in leaving inheritances, which may affect some members of your family.

Protecting Inheritances in a Blended Family

I had a friend who’s parents were divorced. His father remarried and later died, leaving everything to his spouse. His mother also remarried, and when she died, she also left everything to her spouse. The step-parents’ estate plans left everything to their own children. My friend was completely disinherited. If you have children from a previous marriage and want to avoid disinheriting your child, read on.

If the marriage of you and your spouse has created a blended family, then you must take special care during the estate planning process. Blended families offer a variety of inheritance complications: children from previous unions, property brought into the marriage, and children and property introduced during the marriage. To overcome these complications you can create a plan to ensure each family member receives the correct inheritance.

Make a Plan

To begin your blended family estate plan, you should make a list of all of your beneficiaries and what you want each to receive. If there is a special sentimental item you want to leave to a certain child, be sure to note this. You should also speak with your spouse to see if he or she will have any special requests.

With your proposed inheritances listed, you are ready to meet with your attorney. Explain to your attorney the dynamic of your family and what special considerations you want to address in your plan. You should also determine if any of your wishes will change depending upon whether you or your spouse passes away first.

You can leave inheritances in a variety of ways: a Will or Living Trust enumerating each bequest, or Irrevocable Trusts in the name of each chosen beneficiary.

If You Don’t

If you fail to make an estate plan that fully addresses the situation of your blended family, then some of your loved ones may be partially or fully disinherited. If you leave everything to your spouse thinking he or she will provide for your children, you may be wrong. Your spouse may not understand your preferred bequests, or he or she may leave everything to a future spouse.

If your estate plan pre-dates your marriage, you must update it to include all of your beneficiaries. Be sure to also check account beneficiary forms. If you do not update your plan, you may disinherit your step-children if your spouse passes away first.