Ideally, when a second marriage joins two families together, it should be a joyous occasion that creates one bigger family unit. Unfortunately, it too often also creates inheritance fights between stepparents and children. A good estate plan is necessary to help avoid these types of family squabbles.
Complications can arise when two people who both have children from previous relationships marry. Married people typically leave everything to their spouse, so children from the previous relationship may now see their inheritance go to their stepparent, who may in turn leave it to his or her own children. Even if the stepparent promises to take care of the stepchildren, it doesn't always work out that way. And if additional children are added to the relationship, things can get even more complicated.
Every couple needs to redo their estate plan before they get remarried. The following are some ideas for reducing or eliminating disputes before they arise:
- Consider a trust. A trust can allow you to leave money to your spouse for your spouse's lifetime and then pass the balance to your children. There are a variety of different types of trusts that can be structured to fit your family's particular needs.
- Leave something for your children. Even if the bulk of your estate is going to your spouse, you may want to consider leaving a little something to your children in your will. It is a sign of good will and it means your children won't be waiting around for their stepparent to die.
- Buy life insurance. Life insurance can be a good way to make sure your children inherit. You can leave your estate to your spouse, but take out a life insurance policy with your children as beneficiaries.
- Divide personal property. Family heirlooms can be a big source of problems even if their only value is sentimental. You can make your wishes known by writing up a list of personal items and the names of who they should go to and attaching it to your will.
If you are planning on remarrying, consult with your attorney to find the best way to make sure your wishes are carried out with as few issues as possible.