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Planning Your Estate after a Second Marriage

Lady writing estate planning

Estate planning can involve compromise for any couple, but second marriages can present additional competing concerns. Both spouses may have children from a prior relationship, as well as children born of the marriage. While you may want to ensure your spouse is cared for in the event of your death, you may also want to know that all of your biological children will receive a portion of the assets you worked hard to accumulate over your lifetime.

Many married couples default to leaving their estate entirely to their surviving spouse. When spouses do not have identical goals for their estates, however, this choice might not be best, as it allows the surviving spouse much more control over the ultimate distribution of the couple’s assets. Even if spouses agreed during their lifetimes on a fair distribution among their children, the surviving spouse could become vulnerable to the influence of their children as they age, and perhaps susceptible to suggestions that they should change the will.

Some couples choose to address these concerns with a trust. One spouse can create a living trust that will, upon their death, pay an income to the surviving spouse. When the surviving spouse passes on, the trust’s remaining assets pass to the children. This arrangement also comes with risks that couples should consider. For example, if the surviving spouse is much younger than the spouse funding the trust, then the trust’s assets may become depleted by the time the surviving spouse passes away. It might be necessary to find a third party to manage the trust, due to the competing interests at work; the person relying on the trust as an immediate income source and those who stand to receive the funds that remain might not make the same investment decisions.

Other couples choose to keep their assets entirely separate throughout the marriage, leaving the entirety of their estate to their own children and relying on independent income sources to live on after their spouse passes away. This requires that spouses be vigilant about not mingling assets during the marriage and making large purchases separately. An experienced New York estate planning attorney will be able to walk you through the many possible solutions, helping you find the arrangement that meets the needs of you and your family.

For assistance with questions regarding New York wills and trusts, contact the knowledgeable Hudson Valley estate planning attorneys at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for a consultation, at 845-331-4100 (Kingston), or 845-236-4411 (Marlboro).

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