Estate planning is the process through which an individual ensures that their wealth and assets are distributed according to their wishes after their death. Under Colorado law, spouses automatically inherit from each other, even if they are not specified in each other’s wills. This means that when remarrying, it is essential that certain steps are taken to protect the inheritance rights of children from the first marriage.
Updating your will after divorce
A divorce formally and legally separates you from any obligation to your ex-partner, removing their right to inherit from you, but it is sensible to update your will to recognize that you are no longer part of a legal partnership with that person.
Your will should reflect the assets and wealth you have at the point of divorce and the manner in which you would like them to be split between dependents after you die. This is particularly important if you have children and want to ensure they will be financially stable after you are no longer around to care for them.
Your will should include provisions for their legal guardianship if you pass away while they are under the age of 18 and detail how any financial wealth and assets should be distributed to ensure that the person allocated guardianship will have the financial wherewithal to provide for your children in the manner in which they are accustomed.
Updating your will after you remarry
When you remarry, your new spouse acquires certain rights and protections, including the right to inherit from you should you pass away before them. This means that if you wish for your children to inherit your estate rather than your new spouse, you must take proactive measures to ensure this is the case.
To protect your children from your first marriage, you must create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a last will and testament. This will reflect your new marital position and confirm the extent of your wealth and assets at this point in time. It will also specify the way in which you wish for those assets to be distributed in the event of your death.
If you wish for your children to be the sole beneficiaries of your will, you will need to expressly state that your new spouse is not to inherit from you and that you wish for your estate to be distributed among your (named) children instead.
In the event that you bear children during the subsequent marriage, it is sensible to again revisit the will to ensure that your new children will also stand to inherit in the same way as your children from the first marriage.
Placing your estate in trust
An effective option for protecting your children’s inheritance is to establish a trust, which sets aside specific assets for your children to access at a future point in time. This allows you to proceed with your new marriage, accumulating joint wealth and assets that can be left to your spouse for inheritance purposes while your previous assets and finances will be protected and accessible only to your named children from your first marriage.
Use of prenuptial agreements for protecting your children’s inheritance
Many people entering subsequent marriages opt for a prenuptial agreement based on the lessons they learned from their first marriage and divorce. A prenuptial agreement is an important legal document that allows you to create a baseline position of your wealth and assets upon remarrying.
It also allows you to agree the manner in which jointly acquired wealth and assets accumulated over the course of the marriage will be divided in the event of death or divorce. By taking the time to consider the financial implications of your new marriage in this manner, you can provide additional protection for your children’s estate.
The topic of guardianship is so important that it warrants its own section. It is unwise to assume that your new spouse will assume guardianship of your children from a previous marriage, and failing to appoint a designated guardian could harm your children’s future.
You may wish to legally record that the children’s other biological parent will be their designated legal guardian in the event of your death, particularly if you have an amicable co-parenting relationship with them. However, you must obtain their consent prior to recording this in your will.
If you wish to appoint another family member or close friend as the legal guardian of your children, you must consider the financial implications of doing so and ensure that they are prepared for it and provided with the financial means to care for your children.
Estate planning when you remarry is a complex area of law. To protect your children’s future wealth and assets, it is essential that you seek legal advice. Lewis & Matthews, P.C. is a family law firm that can help you develop a personalized estate plan, navigate the nuances of estate planning, and ensure that your wishes will be honored.