Estate Planning When You Remarry

Many marriages are blissfully successful, but many end in divorce. According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce. For second marriages, the rate is higher, with 60-67% ending in divorce. This is a sobering statistic for someone considering remarrying.

Marriages that create blended families, those that include children from prior unions, can make estate planning all that more important. When planning to remarry when you or your new partner have children from a prior relationship, there are many things to consider.

Start with communication

A good starting point is to have frank and comprehensive conversation with your new partner.  Discuss with one another:

  • Which assets do you want to leave to each child?
  • Do you expect to have more children together?
  • Which assets will you be combining in the marriage, and which will you keep individually?
  • Do you want to retitle some of the assets in both names?
  • Are either of you carrying debt and how will it be handled?
  • How old are the children and will they need guardians?
  • Do any of the children have special needs?
  • Is there a significant age difference between you and your new partner? Is one of you more likely to survive the other?
  • Will you be maintaining your former financial advisors, or is it more efficient to find someone new?

After you have hashed out these basics continue by:

  • Making an inventory of all the assets.
  • Updating your wills and all beneficiary designations, such as 401(k) accounts, IRAs, bank and brokerage accounts, and real estate (including first homes and vacation homes).
  • Considering a pre-nuptial agreement.
  • Discussing life insurance and long-term health care insurance. Note that, regardless of a prenup, either spouse will be liable for the expenses of long-term health care, so consider insurance as a form of asset protection.

The best laid plans can go astray. Imagine that a couple has verbally agreed to treat all the “blended” children equally. Suppose one partner dies or the marriage breaks down, the surviving or departing spouse may not be emotionally close to their stepchildren. Promises may be broken or overlooked.

Put safeguards in place with trusts

Revocable Trusts are an excellent mechanism for providing a spouse with lifetime income while capital or assets ultimately vest in children or other beneficiaries. At the same time, a trust may give protection from creditors, divorce proceedings or estate taxes. You can also control who inherits what and inheritance timing. If you die prematurely or are married to a much younger spouse, a trust allows some funds to be released to your children sooner, with the rest delayed until they are older.

Qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts are always irrevocable, so they cannot easily be modified. QTIP trusts serve various purposes- they may allow a widow or widower to live in a family home during his or her lifetime, without requiring them to request permission to sell it. Likewise, the surviving spouse may spend the trust income but not touch the principal. The spouse is also precluded from transferring the assets to a new wife or husband if he or she should remarry. A marital trust, by contrast, gives the spouse more control.

When you are ready to discuss your estate plans, contact the experienced attorneys at Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, P.C. to review your options and ensure your assets are divided amongst your beneficiaries in the manner you would like them to be.

Do you have questions?

Count on your experienced team at Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance for your Estate Planning, Elder Law, Real Estate, Probate, Trust & Estate Administration, and other legal needs. For assistance, contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at

an older couple looking at a house across the street