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Not Your First Marriage? Is Your Estate Plan Current?

Not Your First Marriage?  Have you updated (or created) your estate plan?

Marriage for a newly married couple in their twenties with no children probably does not look the same as one between divorced or widowed persons in their forties with children from earlier marriages.  Their estate plans should not look the same, either. 

People may not relish discussing estate plans, even with their spouse, but it is an important conversation to have.  Making decisions about your estate plan allows you to determine where your assets go when you are no longer here.  You may want to provide for loved ones or donate to a charitable cause that is important to you.  Once you have your end goals in mind, your attorney will be able to suggest the best way to accomplish them. 

Here are five things to consider when deciding upon an estate plan:

Separate Assets:  Are there reasons to treat each spouse’s assets differently?  While many spouses leave all of their assets to each other, someone may want to leave certain assets to his or her children, rather than to a spouse.  For example, you may want to leave a certain financial account or piece of heirloom furniture to your children, and then leave the remainder to your spouse. 

Pre-Nuptial or Divorce Agreements:  If you signed one, have your attorney determine whether it impacts how your estate plan should be drafted.

Providing for Children / Avoiding Former Spouse:  If you are leaving assets to children from a previous marriage, and do not want your former spouse to have control of them, consider using a trust and naming someone as trustee to manage and distribute those assets according to the requirements you include in the trust document. 

Transfer on Death Designations:  Insurance policies and other accounts may allow you to designate a beneficiary.  If you have beneficiaries on certain accounts, they will pass outside of your estate plan.  In Ohio and many other states, owners of real estate, automobiles, and certain forms of business entities can often also designate transfer-on-death beneficiaries and bypass the need for probate of that property. Keep that in mind when making decisions about assets that will pass through your estate plan and those that will bypass it to ensure that the combined outcome achieves your desired result.  And make sure you don’t still have your former spouse listed as a beneficiary (unless that’s what you want).

Family Home:  Who inherits it?  If your deed states that you and your spouse own your house jointly with right of survivorship, the surviving spouse will have complete ownership of the home, regardless of what the other spouse’s will states.  The surviving spouse will then be the one to decide who inherits the house. 

With all estate plans, it is a good idea to review them every few years.  Five, ten, fifteen years after you remarried, you may find that your life and your relationships have changed in unpredictable ways that impact how you want your estate handled.

We can guide you through this process.  Please contact us if you would like us to review your situation and create a plan for you.