Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Estate Planning for Secon…

When you divorce or a spouse passes away, getting remarried is rarely at the forefront of your mind. In time, however, you may meet that special someone with whom you want to experience marriage again. If you find yourself in this situation, though, don’t forget about your estate plan. Whether you need to modify your existing estate plan or create a new one altogether, major life changes like second marriages definitely should prompt you to review your estate plan.

First, non-probate assets are those you own jointly with another person or those who have a named beneficiary. As a result, the distribution of non-probate assets is not governed by a will, or, in the absence of a will, the laws of intestacy. Instead, the assets automatically passes to the joint owner upon your death, or to the beneficiary you named. Non-probate assets include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, trusts, and joint bank accounts. Therefore, one of the first steps you should take in reviewing your estate plan is to carefully consider any joint accounts that you have, as well as the named beneficiaries of any other non-probate assets. If you wish your new spouse to share in some of these assets, you can designate him or her as the beneficiary or add him or her as a joint owner to the account. Otherwise, if you wish to preserve some assets for children from a prior relationship, for example, you can change or leave intact the named beneficiaries as you wish.

For probate assets, however, or those that are neither joint accounts nor have a named beneficiary, distribution occurs pursuant to a will or Michigan laws that govern intestacy, which comes into play only if and when you die without a will. You can add or modify will provisions that express your wishes with respect to your new spouse and to your existing children or whomever else you choose. Otherwise, if you have no valid will, then your assets will be distributed according to intestacy law, whether it reflects your true wishes or not.

As second and subsequent marriages become more and more common, there are measures that you can take prospectively to protect and preserve your assets for your children from a previous relationship or whomever you choose to be your heirs. Due to the complexities of these issues, you need an attorney who can provide you the help necessary to create an estate plan that is right for you and your family. At Legacy Law Center, our Ann Arbor elder law attorneys can help you through any situations that may arise as you work through the estate planning process.

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