Simple answer: it’s probably MORE important now in your second marriage than it was in your first.
In most second marriages, each spouse comes into the new relationship with “baggage” from the first marriage (and I don’t mean “baggage” in the negative sense). They have kids from the first marriage. They have a house from the first marriage. They have a 401k from the first marriage. Maybe they have a business that survived the first marriage.
Other than the “kids,” these pieces of “baggage” are all “assets” in the eyes of the law from the first marriage.
Now, usually there’s a pretty interesting dynamic that I see surrounding how each spouse feels about these different pieces of “baggage” from the first marriage. Generally, they tend to think of the property, or “baggage,” from the first marriage as their own individual property.
It’s not necessarily a negative or selfish feeling that they have about these assets – it is understandable – but they tend to have the view that they worked hard for them, they survived the break up of a first marriage and came out with them in tact, so they view them as “mine.”
Added to this dynamic each spouse then usually has very strong feelings about how these pieces of “baggage” should be handled when they pass away.
Here’s a great “real life” example that many second-marriage couples face. This couple’s been married for over 10 years. They both have adult kids from a first marriage. The couple is living together in the home that the wife brought from the first marriage.
Now, they live in this house, which has no mortgage, as if it is “their” home. They act as if it is “their” home. They both contribute to its upkeep. They pay taxes on it. But, if something happens to her, then the wife wants her husband to live in the house for as long as he wants (and for as long as he remains single after she’s gone), and then the house should go to her kids from the first marriage only. She doesn’t want the house to go to her stepchildren.
So here’s the rub: if that wife dies without some sort of estate plan in place, then state laws will determine how that house is passed on. So, the surviving husband will now have part ownership in that house with her kids from the first marriage. If that surviving husband then dies without a will, his kids will inherit his share of the property – a result that the wife didn’t want.
For this couple, like most couples in a second marriage, a living trust combined with wills could solve their dilemma and help get them the result that they want.
So as you can see, if you’re in a second marriage (or a third or even a fourth), it’s imperative that you do some estate planning. If you have questions, contact an estate planning attorney to talk about your second marriage questions.
The Family Legal Planning system at Phillips & Garcia has been designed to help busy families get their Massachusetts estate planning done in a convenient and affordable way. To learn more about trusts and how they can be used in your estate plan, schedule your complimentary Family Legal Planning session with Attorney Andrew Garcia. To speak with Attorney Garcia call him at (508) 998-0800 or email him at [email protected]