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Financial Center for Women

I'm getting remarried. How to Avoid Accidentally Disinheriting Your Kids

Your Modern Family: Perhaps your family isn’t as complicated as the cast of the award-winning sitcom Modern Family’s, but it makes for a great example as to how easily it could be to accidentally disinherit children.  Both Jay and Gloria Pritchett had been previously married with children from prior relationships along with a child together.  Jay’s children, Mitchell and Claire, are adults, married with children and even grandchildren of their own. Gloria’s son, Manny becomes an adult over the 11 seasons the show ran and together they had Joe. 

Jay is quite a bit older than Gloria.  If Jay passed away without prior estate planning, Gloria as his spouse would inherit everything.  There would be nothing to stop her from naming Manny and Joe as her sole heirs and disinheriting Claire and Mitchell in the process.  I’m sure this would not have been Jay’s intention, but the potential for this accidental disinheritance exists.

Death, divorce and remarriage can complicate any estate plan.  Here are some pitfalls to avoid and steps to take to ensure your wishes and your wealth end up going to the proper heirs:

  1.        Failure to update wills, trusts and beneficiaries after a death, divorce, marriage or birth in your family could leave your assets in the wrong hands and accidentally exclude those who should be named.  An estate planning attorney can draft or amend legal documents, in addition, be sure to check your beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts.
  2.        If there’s one thing that COVID brought to the forefront is the need for estate planning.  If you die without a valid will, trust or designated beneficiaries, your estate will require probate.  The laws of intestate will determine who will inherit your assets.  In addition, probate involves additional costs, delays and a complete lack of privacy.
  3.        Do your heirs know where all the important documents and accounts are held? A tremendous gift you can give your family is to organize and properly title accounts at banks, brokerage accounts, real estate, even digital assets, so they know what to do at a time when they may still be grieving.    
  4.        Even after your assets have been distributed, remarriage and divorce of your heirs can mean your ex-daughter-in-law or your spouse’s new spouse inherits your assets.  An estate planning attorney can draft clauses in your estate documents to mitigate further inheritances from going to unintended recipients.

It is important for your financial planner to collaborate with your estate planning attorney to prevent coordination gaps and missed opportunities in your legacy planning.  At the Financial Center for Women, we have experienced divorce, widowhood, and remarriage.  We understand the complexities of modern and blended families.  We’re here to help you with proper advance planning, and even to help after the loss of a loved one.

To learn more about how remarriage can impact your Social Security Benefits, click here