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Second Marriage and Estate Planning

Oct. 29, 2021

Estate planning should be a top priority for anyone, regardless of their assets, age, or marital status. But what if you’re entering into a second marriage and need to make revisions to an existing plan? Although this will complicate your planning, it doesn’t mean you have to start over from scratch. Of the nearly 24,000 divorces that occur every year in Washington, over half of them had children involved, meaning your plan will have to reflect not only your previous spouse but also your joint children. If you’ve remarried and are unsure of your next steps, call William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law in Grays Harbor County today for a consultation.

Rights of a Surviving Spouse

When you get married in Washington, your spouse is entitled to certain rights under state law, including, most importantly, inheritance laws. This means any property acquired during the marriage is automatically considered joint property (called community property). It also means that if you die without a will in place, your spouse will likely inherit all of your assets. To avoid this, you must have a well-written estate plan in place.

Creating an Estate Plan in a Second Marriage

A second marriage complicates your estate planning, but a skilled attorney can help make sense of it all. Here are the most common factors to consider as you begin updating your plan.

  • Prenuptial agreement: Any marriage can benefit from a prenup, but they’re often more useful in a second marriage. Those getting remarried can often have a more practical outlook, and a prenup can be a good way to delineate assets and protect your estate.

  • Inheritance of the children: Consider both existing children and any new children you may have in your second marriage. Many choose to allocate assets to adult children during their lifetime by setting up a trust. Furthermore, minor children will need a designated legal guardian should you pass away before they come of age.

  • Trusts to protect assets: Trusts are especially helpful to differentiate assets between your current and former spouse. Trusts give you flexibility and allow your beneficiaries a smoother transition in acquiring their assets. If all parties are aware of the trust, it can drastically diminish in-fighting among heirs.

  • Beneficiaries: Any estate plan should be reviewed and updated every few years, but this is especially important during a major life event like getting remarried. You’ll likely want to change your beneficiary to your new spouse for real property, investments, and retirement accounts.

  • Long-term care costs: Long-term care insurance and an advanced healthcare directive can ensure your heirs won’t be saddled with the burden of medical bills should you require long-term nursing care.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Of course, it’s easy to get swept up with the excitement of a new marriage, but that shouldn’t keep you from prudent planning. Here are three main mistakes to avoid

  • Waiting too long: It’s essential your estate plan is updated immediately upon remarriage. Because of Washington’s inheritance laws, if you die while married and without an updated will or estate plan, your wishes will likely not be carried out as you’d want.

  • Not changing beneficiaries: As your assets mature and your family structure changes, your estate plan should also change. For example, adult children from your previous marriage may not need as much as they once did. It’s okay to reallocate assets and rename beneficiaries to your new spouse or new children who may be more in need.

  • Doing it yourself: Estate plans are a lot of work and deserve the time and effort to do it right. If you try to go it alone, you run the risk of making a mistake that could have severe ramifications down the road. By hiring an experienced ​​estate planning attorney, you’ll know that your assets are protected and that your loved ones will be looked after.

Let William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law Help

The only constant in life is change, and the best thing we can do in the face of this is be adaptable and responsive. For long-term planning, this means taking a critical look at your existing estate plan and understanding how local laws and new marriages will affect your choices. Those in Grays Harbor County or Pacific County should call William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law today for practical guidance on creating an estate plan in a second marriage.