Navigating the Tricky Terrain of Estate Planning for a Women’s Second Marriage
by Richard S. Bernstein on Feb 16, 2018
By: Richard S. Bernstein & Rebecca G. Doane, Esq.
Estate planning for women who have previously been married should be a positive and harmonious experience shared by their new husbands. After all, the goals of the parties are usually the same — to assure when one of the marriage partners passes away, that the estate will be protected and conserved for the survivor, and when both parties are gone the remaining estate will pass on to the children or other beneficiaries in the most efficient manner. When the parties have children together and neither has a child from a prior marriage, it is usually a simple matter to establish an estate plan that will accomplish the family’s goals of reducing estate tax, avoiding probate and assuring that the estate will be protected during the parents’ lifetimes and for future generations. However, if the family includes one or more children from a prior marriage, a well-conceived estate plan can become more complicated.
When women with prior marriage children come to the attorney’s office they have usually resolved how the estate will someday be divided. Based on which party brought most of the assets to the marriage, the length of the marriage, which children are considered most deserving and a multitude of other factors, they have usually reached a decision as to whether the estate will ultimately pass equally to his children and her children, mostly to his children, mostly to hers, or some other arrangement. The problem, however, is how to assure their plan will be carried out without unduly restricting or controlling the surviving spouse during his or her remaining lifetime.
In the case of families with prior marriage children, the overriding issue is how to balance the conflicting goals of predictability on the one hand and freedom from restrictions and limitations on the other. There are a number of tools that can be used to add predictability to the estate plan, but they will by necessity add some measure of restriction or limitation. How successful the estate plan will be depends on understanding which of those tools are appropriate in a given case.
Estate planning for a family with prior marriage children must be undertaken carefully and must include an open and frank discussion of the realities of the situation. Then, an estate plan can be established that will best meet the family’s needs and assure their goals are met. Meeting with a board-certified estate planning attorney is essential in these circumstances and will greatly reduce the chances of conflict and heartbreak in the future.