Sometimes, happily ever after isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like. Remarriage is as much a part of life as the sun rising in the east. Whether you’re widowed or divorced, there’s good chance another walk down the aisle is in your future. But how do you even begin to cover the bases from an estate planning perspective? Here are a few important tips when it comes to estate planning and remarriage in Vermont.
Finances and Legalities
It’s crucial to update not only your banking and financial information, but your legal documents as well. Your trust accounts, will, insurance policies, powers of attorney – one missed detail can set off a domino effect. Schedule an appointment with your estate planning lawyer. Not only can you update all of those important documents, but you can also use the opportunity to ensure your estate is inline with any new laws or tax considerations.
Any good estate lawyer will bring up the possibility of a prenuptial agreement. They’re common in first marriages these days, but if you’re entering into your second, third or even fourth marriage, a pre-nup takes on a whole new meaning. Consider these scenarios:
Lisa married her high school sweetheart, Jack, in 1960. They worked hard, saved and were looking forward to their retirement when they could sit on the porch swing and watch their grandchildren grow up. Jack passed away a year after he retired and now, five years later, Lisa has met someone and they’re engaged. She and Jack were frugal; they worked hard and saved a lot of money. While Lisa loves her new beau, he’s not as disciplined with finances and is carrying significant debt.
In another scenario, Lee was diagnosed with a terminal illness three years ago. He and his second wife, Lynn, have been married for ten years. Both have adult children from their first marriages. He’s concerned Lynn will not distribute his assets according to his wishes. He’s concerned her children, whom he did not father, will receive the lion’s share of the estate. He’s not even sure what, if anything, he can do to make sure his own kids receive their share of his estate.
Estate Planning and Remarriage in the Long Run
In both instances, a strong prenuptial and estate plan are formidable financial tools that can keep those bases covered when second marriages are present. The fact is, we all believe there’s good in everyone and when we trust, we tend to only want to see that good; otherwise, what does it say about us, right? If you can get past the “perfection on a pedestal” mindset and recognize that we’re all human – with less than ideal qualities, you’re in a better position to approach this aspect of your life with an open mind and priorities where they should be. Estate planning and remarriage can run parallel with your own ideas and they can co-exist. Meeting your estate planning lawyer can also provide insight that you hadn’t considered.
Your Attorney’s Role
By having a look at your current beneficiaries in your estate plan, including retirement and life insurance, you and your lawyer can perhaps make changes that will make you feel better while also protecting your children, your new spouse and any stepchildren you wish to include. With state laws varying the way they do, if you relocate, it’s doubly important to update those documents.
The financial considerations are important, of course, but don’t forget the end of life decisions when families can either come together or splinter apart. Especially when it comes to those difficult topics that are covered in living wills, leaving nothing open to interpretation can go a long way with blended families. That’s important in what’s already a difficult time.
An open discussion with your estate planning lawyer can lay the foundation for open discussions with your family members.