On Wall Street recently published an article on the impact of multiple marriages on estate plans in “Estate planning mishaps: How even the family bible is at stake.”
There are some unforeseen ramifications of remarriage. Question come up like, Who gets the personal belongings of a deceased parent? How do you prove title to personal property?
There’s no title to a family heirloom like a grandpa's pipe collection. A parent can say that specific items should go to a particular child, but its proving that they actually belonged to the parent rather than a new spouse is what’s difficult.
Situations like that prompt the rule of thumb: When a parent dies, first change the locks.
The death of a parent and the new spouse may not clear up issues for potential heirs. For example, the husband's death is followed three days later by the death of his new wife. Her children by a previous marriage may say all the property is there’s because the “surviving” wife inherited the property.
Folks should think about prenuptial agreements, which can be particularly useful for those with existing children and remarrying later in life. It’s not just for Brangelina. And if you are divorced and get remarried, verify the beneficiary listed on the accounts. Otherwise, the former spouse could end up inheriting the assets!
Be aware of how state laws can impact inheritances. There are some states that allow the surviving spouse to continue living in their deceased spouse's home. If the deceased had children by a prior marriage, they could be cooling their heels for some time before they receive their inheritance. This can create a dicey situation when most of the deceased client's wealth is tied up in the home.
Likewise, when folks move from one state to another, especially when it’s a second or third marriage, they should talk with a qualified estate planning attorney to understand what rights that spouse has attained because of the move. There could be surprises. For example, in Oklahoma the surviving spouse has a right to the family bible.
Reference: On Wall Street (Sept. 14, 2016) “Estate planning mishaps: How even the family bible is at stake”