What To Look Before Estate Planning After A Second Marriage

An estate plan provides stability and predictability for you and your family. You can use your estate plan to:

  • Choose the person who will manage your affairs if you are unable
  • Give healthcare providers instructions about important end-of-life issues
  • Appoint a person to make your medical decisions if you are unable
  • Nominate a guardian for your children in case you and their other parent both pass away or become incapacitated before they reach adulthood
  • Create trusts to provide for you and/or your family members
  • Pass property to your heirs and beneficiaries when you pass away
  • Minimize tax consequences of transferring property after death

Many people recognize the importance of this type of planning and create a will, living trust, powers of attorney and other documents. But, too often, people see estate planning as a “one and done” activity. Or they have loose plans to update their estate plans, but never get around to it.

Things change. Sometimes, it’s important that your estate plan changes with them. It’s a good idea to review your estate plan periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes. But, there are also certain events that should trigger a prompt review and adjustment. Some of the most common include:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The birth of a child
  • The death a beneficiary

In some circumstances, changes happen by operation of law. For example, if you divorce in Arizona and don’t rewrite your will, the court will do it for you by removing any bequests to or authority vested in your former spouse. And, Arizona law makes complicated provisions for children who were born after a will was executed. But, these are far from full solutions. And, what happens automatically under state law may not even reflect your wishes.

Don’t leave the outcome to chance. After any significant change in the structure of your family, review your estate planning documents to ensure that they still serve your purposes. An experienced Arizona estate planning attorney can advise you on what changes are necessary to make sure your wishes are carried out. This is particularly important after a second marriage, especially if one or both partners in the new marriage has children with someone else.

Special Considerations after a Second (or Subsequent) Marriage

Second marriages can trigger special issues when it comes to estate planning. Here’s an example of how distribution of an estate can get sticky if wills and other documents haven’t been updated.

Joe and Stella married in their late 60s, after both were retired and each had accumulated significant assets. Neither has any children. His will, written prior to his divorce, leaves everything to his first wife. If she predeceases him, his brother and sister will receive his full estate in equal shares.

Joe knows Arizona law will skip over his ex-wife in administering his will, and wants his full estate to be split between his siblings, so he doesn’t think any action is required. When Joe passes away, Stella asserts her rights as an omitted spouse. If her claim prevails, she will be entitled to 50% of Joe’s estate–the amount she would have received under intestate succession. If his intended beneficiaries fight her claim, the estate will be dissipated by costs of litigation, and settlement of the estate delayed. Even if they prevail, they may receive significantly less than Joe intended. If they don’t fight Stella’s claim, they’ll receive just half of what their brother intended. And, if they fight and lose, they’ll likely receive even less than 50% of the intended bequest.

This is just one simple example of how failing to update estate planning documents after a second marriage can have unintended consequences. The situation may become even more complicated when there are children involved. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid unexpected outcomes like the one described above.

The right solution will depend on the specifics of your situation. They may include writing a new will, entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement wherein each spouse waives the right to inherit from the other, moving assets into a living trust with the intended beneficiaries as designated successor beneficiaries, or some other approach.

Schedule a Review with Your Arizona Estate Planning Lawyer

The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your intended beneficiaries are provided for is to review your estate planning documents with an experienced Arizona estate planning attorney. While reviewing documents on your own is a good start, you may not be aware of the risks and ramifications of your current documents in your new circumstances. In the example above, Joe thought he was covered and didn’t need to make any changes to ensure that his brother and sister received his full estate. But, he was unaware of an Arizona law that might change that outcome.

The estate planning attorneys at Lincoln & Wenk have a thorough knowledge of the laws of intestate succession, omitted spouse and omitted child provisions, the limitations on spousal disinheritance, and other issues that may impact how your estate planning documents are interpreted and carried out. We’re here to help you ensure that your interests are protected and that your estate passes to the people you chose when you are no longer with your loved ones.

To learn more about how we can help you protect those close to you after a second marriage, call 623-294-2464 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.

Call us at 623-294-2464 or contact us to schedule your consultation today.

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