What are the estate planning considerations in a second marriage later in life?

HNWElder Law, Estate Administration and Probate

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Many widows and widowers simply do not like living alone after their beloved spouse dies. As widows and widowers increasingly meet and decide to get remarried, they need to be aware of important estate planning considerations. As the life expectancy of people in the United States dramatically increases, the reality of second and third marriages becomes more likely. Widows and widowers are increasingly likely to meet and decide that a second marriage is an excellent way to avoid spending their golden years alone.

A remarriage can be one of the best parts of a senior’s life. However, a remarriage later in life often creates a unique set of legal questions. For example, many older clients take for granted that their adult children will inherit from them when they pass away. The reasoning behind this assumption is because the majority of their property and life have been spent with their previous spouse, who was often a co-parent to those children, and the one who helped to build or sustain the family assets.

However, a new marriage means that the marital property is governed by the laws of the new marriage. If there is no prenuptial agreement, then the surviving spouse would, under the laws of New Jersey, inherit at least one-third of the estate. This means that the adult children from the first marriage might be in for a rude awakening. A large part of the children’s inheritance might be “swallowed up” by the second spouse’s right to inherit one-third of her new husband’s estate.

The problems that are created by second marriages should not be taken lightly. It is important to talk these things through with your future spouse. Chances are, he or she also wants to make sure that adult children receive assets. If you don’t have a frank discussion with your would-be spouse, you may end up causing your loved ones a great deal of heartache and confusion as they struggle to figure out what would be best and what you would have wanted.

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