Like many Americans, Peter Kenneth’s first marriage ended in a divorce. Overall, the split was amicable and he was able to move forward and co-parent with his first wife, Lena, who had primary custody of their daughter, Elizabeth.
A few years after Peter and Lena divorced, Peter met his second wife, Katie. After getting remarried, Peter had a son with Katie, who they named Loren. The relationship between Peter’s families was mostly cordial, but Peter failed to create an estate plan or update his life insurance beneficiaries after getting married to Katie. Even though Peter was relatively young and in good health, he ended up dying in a tragic car accident after hitting black ice on the interstate.
This was where the inheritance problems began.
The Overall Picture of Remarriage
Nearly 20% of divorced individuals in the US end up remarrying at some point. The older you are when you do this, the more likely it is that you are entering your new union with assets in tow, like brokerage accounts, real estate or life insurance policies. You may also have family heirlooms or other items that you wish to pass down.
If you remarry, it is absolutely imperative that you update your estate plan as soon as possible. In the case of Peter, his death ignited a fierce battle over his estate. He died without a will in place—intestate—and thus there was no will dictating where his assets would go. In essence, instead of having a plan, Peter left the distribution of his entire estate up to the state courts.
The former cordial relationship between Katie and Lena unraveled as they fought for Peter’s estate. Katie claimed that she should inherit due to her status as Peter’s legal wife.
The Outcome of Peter’s Situation
Due to Katie's status as Peter's legal wife, she ultimately was able to make a full claim on the estate for herself and Loren. Lena and Elizabeth got nothing. Peter did have a cordial relationship with Lena and was a devoted father to Elizabeth; however, since he had no will in place, the state court made the ultimate decision.
If you have remarried but have children from your first marriage, it is probable that you also intend for them to receive a part of your estate.. Most parents in this situation wish to split their assets between the children they had in their first marriage and the children from the second. You may want certain assets to go to specific beneficiaries, or to split your assets between your families. There are a multitude of ways to adjust your estate plan to service your particular desires and marital situation, but a detailed estate plan must exist in order for you to be able to do so. Otherwise, you risk the state making decisions that you would not make.
When people fight over an estate, it can ruin relationships and families and can also put your loved ones at risk of financial peril. Having a detailed and updated estate plan is of paramount importance, especially if you remarry.
Contact us at AmeriEstate to ensure that you have a comprehensive estate plan which disseminates your assets to your exact specifications.