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How Can Getting Remarried Affect Your Estate Planning?


Getting remarried can raise a number of estate planning issues, particularly if you have children from the prior marriage. Some people think they may not need to alter their estate plan at all–assuming they had one to begin with. Indeed, one common argument we hear is that “my new spouse will take care of the children,” or vice-versa, when the time comes.

Such thinking is short-sighted and often leads to conflict after the person is gone. Especially when the relationship between the new spouse and the stepchildren is not particularly strong, proper estate planning is even more crucial to help avoid potentially costly and time-consuming probate litigation. With that in mind, here are a few basic things you need to consider if you are getting remarried:

  1. Understand What Happens If You Have No Estate Plan.

In the absence of a will, New York intestacy law disposes of your property. Under the law, your spouse would inherit the first $50,000 of your estate plus one-half of the remaining balance. The remainder is divided equally among your children. If you are unhappy with this division, then you need to make a will.

  1. A Trust Can Help Protect Your Spouse or Children.

Rather than leave everything to your new spouse and hope that they provide for your children, you can take a more proactive step by creating a trust. For example, you could put some of your assets in a separate trust exclusively for the benefit of your children. You can also establish a trust, which provides a specific pool of assets to benefit your spouse after you die.

  1. Consider Life Insurance

Another alternative is to purchase a life insurance policy, naming your children as beneficiaries. A life insurance policy automatically pays out its benefit upon your death. It is not considered a probate asset if beneficiaries are designated on the policy, so it does not have to go through the formal administration of your estate.

  1. A Life Estate Can Protect Your Spouse and Children.

Let’s say when you remarried, your new spouse moved into your existing home. You are the sole owner of the property and want the house to go to your children, but at the same time, you do not want your spouse thrown out on the street if you die first. One way to resolve this dilemma is to create something called a “life estate.” Basically, a life estate means deeding your property to your children on the condition that your spouse retains the right to continue living on the property after your death. After your spouse dies or decides to move, your children then assume full ownership.  However, if you transfer the property into an Irrevocable Trust with a reserved life estate for your spouse, all parties get an extra level of protection.

Consult with a New York Estate Planning Lawyer

Not every option mentioned above will be appropriate in every remarriage scenario. Everyone’s personal and property situation is unique. That is why it is important to work with a qualified Putnam County estate planning lawyer who can provide specific legal advice tailored to you and your family’s situation. Contact the offices of Meyer & Spencer, P.C., today to schedule a consultation.


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