Estate Planning for second marriages
Fred Amrein, a financial planner from Wynnewood, PA, based Amrein Financial recently posted an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on the importance of Estate Planning in second marriages. I could not have said it better so I haven’t tried. The text of his post is below. The link is below the text. As always, good luck and good hunting.
The worst-case scenarios always happen when couples in a second marriage leave estate planning to the last minute or leave it for the kids to decide. That’s when people start contesting wills, and it gets messy. The key is to spend some time thinking through every possible contingency and coming up with a plan for each one. That way, no matter what happens, clients and their families are prepared.
The first possibility to consider is if both spouses die at the same time. How would the money be divided among their children? One way is for each parent to pass assets to his or her biological children. Another is for both parents’ assets to be divided equally among all of the children.
Alternatively, the assets can be divvied among the children in unequal amounts based on merit or need. Doing it this way can quickly become emotionally messy, however. To avoid this, it’s incredibly important for parents to communicate their decision-making process to all of the children beforehand, and to choose an executor who is capable of interpreting their wishes and carrying out their wills. Otherwise, everyone loses.
The more complicated — and more common — situation is when one spouse dies before the other. There are a few problems that can occur when this happens. One is that the surviving spouse automatically inherits the decedent’s assets, and spends them before spending his own assets, leaving nothing for his step-children and passing all remaining assets along to his biological children. Even though this would usually be in direct violation of the decedent’s wishes, there is nothing built into the law that automatically prevents this from happening. It must be prevented by careful planning.
One possible way to avoid this scenario is to create a will for each spouse that passes all of a decedent’s assets along to his or her biological children immediately after death. The problem in this case is that the surviving spouse will often need to rely at least partly on the decedent’s assets to maintain her standard of living in retirement. In this case, creating a trust, which limits her access to his assets after his death, is a viable option. A third solution is that upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse could inherit 50% of the asse
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to estate planning for couples in second marriages. Each situation is different and requires a different solution. The adviser can only help facilitate the decision-making process and forewarn clients of possible pitfalls. In the end, it’s up to the couple to make the hard decisions.
The complete link to his post is the following:
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