If you are about to get remarried, you obviously want to celebrate, but you need to consider the advice my sister gave me when I go married. She told me, “It is great to get married, but then life just kind of goes on, but you are married. You are married, and that is GREAT, but you still need to live your normal life.” My sister was not trying to kill my excitement about getting married, but rather was trying to prepare me to be married.
If possible, you should start to plan before you get married. If you are already on your second, or third, or subsequent marriage, the best time to plan is now. You may have created an estate plan during your first marriage, but this time it will probably be more complicated–especially if you own more assets and when you first got married. The following are some things to consider in planning to protect your interests are taken care of when you remarry:
- Take an inventory. You and your new spouse should take an inventory of your assets and debts and share it with the other person. Include all of your assets, including, but not limited to life insurance policies and retirement plans in your inventories. You want to be open and honest about money if you want to prevent bad feelings in the future.
- Decide how you want to handle finances. Once you know what you are dealing with, then you need to decide if you want to combine (or not combine) assets when you are married. If one spouse is selling a house and moving in with the other partner, will he or she contribute to the cost of the house? If one spouse has significantly more, or less, assets or debt than the other partner, you may not want to combine finances or make any joint purchases. These decisions need to be made upfront so both you and your new spouse are clear on what to expect. If you did not do this before you were married, there is no time like the present to discuss this with your new spouse!
- Consult an estate planning attorney. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, you should consult an attorney, especially if you have children – minor children or adult children. If you had a will during your first marriage, you will definitely need to update your will and you may also need to update or create other estate planning documents such as a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. By having a thorough conversation with an estate planning attorney, you can decide if a trust is necessary to protect your children’s interests, or if a trust is even necessary.
- Don’t Ignore Your Beneficiaries. You will want to look at who you have designated as the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, annuity, and/or retirement plan. If you are divorced, you may not be able to change some of the beneficiaries and some life insurance may need to be kept to pay out to your spouse. Your divorce decree dictates what will need to happen with some policies and beneficiaries, so you will want to share the divorce decree with your attorney so he or she can make sure you do not violate the decree. You don’t want to have a former spouse receiving assets via beneficiary designations that you forget to change, so you will want to make sure your beneficiary designations agree with the rest of the estate plan you create.
The most important thing to remember is to be open and honest with your future spouse and your family members about your wishes.
Plan for Your Family
Every family needs an estate plan, and every family needs to consider the family dynamics they have. Blended families have a higher potential for conflicts, making their need for an estate plan even more pressing. If you have a blended family, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to set things up right. You can make an appointment by going here.