Orange County California Law on Estate Planning in Second Marriages

When a couple first gets married, their estate planning attorney in Orange County will typically keep the plan simple. The first step is to take care of the surviving spouse. The second is to make sure to take care of any children they have. While this may sound simple, there are a variety of ways an estate planning lawyer will make it happen. Regardless, it’s pretty typical that joint assets will be passed on to the surviving spouse. In some states, this is almost automatic.

When someone gets married for the second or more time, the state plan can get more complicated, especially if there are children from the previous marriage. The new couple will bring their personal assets into the marriage, but the division will no longer be as clear-cut as before. For instance, each spouse may want his or her assets to go to his or her children only, but with enough left to take care of the surviving spouse. If this sounds complicated, it’s because an estate plan after a first marriage ends is exceptionally complex. That’s why it’s always a good idea to meet with your Orange County estate planning attorney to ensure everything is set up correctly and according to your wishes. Here are some things you can do to make estate planning in second marriages go by more smoothly.

Practice Open Communication

When discussing estate plans, marriage, and joining lives with a new spouse, there must be open and honest communication regarding financial goals. There is no doubt that discussing ex-spouses and existing estate plans is uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Some key points to discuss are:

  • Any contractual or financial obligations to former spouses through divorce agreements.
  • Guardianship plans for any children from previous relationships.
  • Long-term plans to provide for each other and any children.

Read More: Creating an Estate Planning Checklist

Yours, Mine, and Ours

Now that you and your new spouse have an idea of previous commitments and long-term goals, you’ll want to determine how current assets are divided. Most decisions will be up to personal preference, but there are several factors you should consider:

Property Laws in Your State

In some states, any property or assets that are obtained after marriage cannot be regarded as separate property in a marriage. California is considered a community property state, but previous marriages from other states can throw you for a loop. Luckily, an Orange County estate planning lawyer will know which laws apply and how they’ll impact your estate plan.

How Old You Are

Since younger couples tend to enter relationships or equal footing, they are more likely to commingle their assets more. Those with more years under their belts might have varying degrees of property and assets and want to keep certain items separate.

Yours and Mine

If couples come into a marriage with significant amounts of inheritances, college accounts, trusts, and other assets, they often choose to keep prenuptial assets separate. Afterward, the couples may decide to comingle anything they earn together. Or, they may also choose to keep things separate, regardless.

Children

Having children from a previous marriage can make a significant impact on future estate plans. Spouses may want to reserve some of their assets to take care of their children of the prior marriage first. There are extra considerations if both spouses come in with children or new children are made in the new union. Read More: The Importance of Making a Will for Your Children

New Estate Planning To-Do List

Once you’ve had an open conversation about your previous commitments, current assets, and future goals, you and your new spouse can now sit down with your Orange County estate planning attorney and create a plan. While creating a new estate plan will share some similarities with the first plan you made, there are some additional steps and items to consider.

Review Account Designations

Take some time to review any of your accounts where you’ve already named beneficiaries. This could be anything from a life insurance policy to a retirement account. In many cases, your ex-spouse will be set as the beneficiary. You’ll want to determine if someone new should take that position. Make sure to think carefully about who you name. While it might be easiest to simply name your new spouse, this decision could have unintended consequences. Your new spouse can name his or her own beneficiary after you pass. If your goal was for individual assets or pieces of property to eventually be given to your children, naming your spouse as your beneficiary may not guarantee this outcome. Your estate planning attorney in Orange County can help you make the right decisions to get the result you desire.

Updates Wills and Trusts

Your first will may have been general enough that it wouldn’t result in any issues after your death. With a new spouse, step-children, or new children, those seemingly simple instructions could cause unwanted conflict. For example, if your original will designates your valuable baseball card collection to be split among your children, having only one child in your previous marriage makes this easy. If you have additional children through your second marriage, it may not be as simple to divide. In many cases, this could cause fighting among all your children.

Check your will to ensure that it has specific instructions that meet your desire. Most estate planning lawyers will help you set up the appropriate trusts for your estate. A well-organized trust can help segregate certain aspects of your estate from different parts of your blended family. Because these kinds of trusts can be complicated, it is crucial that you work with an experienced trust attorney in Orange County, CA to get it right.

Take the Next Steps

Planning your estate with a new family is a significant but necessary venture. It requires digging into your past estate plan, honest communication about your goals, and proper planning for the future. It’s not always a comfortable topic but is worth it in the long run. Not having an updated estate plan can mean assets go to the wrong people, fights arise, and your final wishes aren’t met. Instead of worrying about what will happen with your estate after you pass, meet with a professional Orange County estate planning attorney and make sure everything is completed the first time correctly.

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