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Changing Your Estate Plan After a Second Marriage

For many, a second marriage is a blessing because it offers a new chance to find happiness. For estates, however, second marriages are a common cause of litigation as two sets of children and a second spouse may all attempt to vie for the available assets. While your previous plan may now be upended by introducing new relationships into the picture, proper estate planning can prevent any major issues in the future.

Update Your Estate Plan

A second marriage will cause obvious changes to your need for an estate plan. Without any steps to the contrary, there will be two estates merged together with possibly two competing sets of children with a claim.

You simply cannot assume that your estate plan remains the same with a new spouse and children in the picture. It is usually better to establish a trust that will explicitly state your wishes and put them into being upon the passing of you or your spouse.

Discuss the Matter Ahead of Time

No one likes to discuss matters surrounding death and mortality. However, it is vital to have an open and honest discussion with all of the children while you’re still alive so that expectations are set. It may lead to hard feelings, but the children will be able to communicate and vent now as opposed to later.

It is when the estate plan comes as a surprise that litigation ensues. Even when your decisions are not popular, it is better to get everything out in the open when people can still talk about it as opposed to having it sprung on people when they are unprepared. At that point, multiple parties may need an estate planning litigation lawyer.

Your children might be upset that your assets could be used to support someone who is not their parent. Communication is key, but even that may not be enough to assuage hurt feelings and the thought that their financial interests are being compromised.

Consider Keeping Estates Separate

If each partner brings significant assets into the marriage, the estates will combine unless you take action to keep them apart. You should see both a family law and an estate planning attorney before getting married to explore the possibility of a prenuptial agreement that can separate the estates. You can even accomplish this in a postnuptial agreement after you’ve been married.

Separate estates can alleviate the problem of competing children, making it a pivotal step toward avoiding estate litigation. It can set expectations ahead of time that each family will end up with what the spouse brought into the marriage and will forestall accusations that the new spouse’s children are after your family’s money.

Consider a QTIP Trust

One of the dilemmas that blended families face during the estate planning process is the fact that the surviving spouse will need to be cared for out of the assets of the estate. However, a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust is a great option that can both care for a surviving spouse and ensure that children will be able to inherit property.

A QTIP Trust is treated as a marital gift to the spouse. As a trust, it will have benefits for the tax treatment of your estate. The surviving spouse will have an income from the trust for the remainder of his or her life. As for the rest of the property, it will be held in the trust for the beneficiaries, who will inherit the property when the surviving spouse passes.

You can arrange to divide the assets after your passing. One option is to leave some for the children and some for your spouse. Then, after your spouse dies, the assets can go to the children.

For help with trusts, wills and more, contact an estate planning litigation lawyer at the Knee Law Firm in Hackensack, NJ. While it’s preferable to have an estate plan that prevents court battles, this may not always be possible. No matter the situation, we’ll be there to help. Call us today at (201) 996-1200 to set up your initial consultation in Hackensack.

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