Making The Complex

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Why is estate planning crucial when you remarry?

If you’re getting remarried and you’re one of the many Louisiana residents who has put off doing any estate planning, now is the time. When a person dies without a will (known as “intestate”), it can lead to conflict among surviving loved ones. Add a former spouse and children from a previous marriage to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for serious family drama.

If you already have a will and other estate planning documents in place (which likely you amended after your first marriage ended), you’ll need to revise those to take into consideration your new spouse.

It’s essential to understand that under the law, surviving spouses automatically have certain rights. These rights vary by state. However, Louisiana has some unique laws regarding property inheritance if someone dies without a will.

Generally if a person dies intestate, any separate property will go to children or biological relatives of the deceased. Inheritance of community property gets more complicated based on whether the deceased had any children or other descendants. If there were none, the surviving spouse usually gets the deceased’s share of the community property, at least until he or she remarries.

By having a will, you can help ensure that your estate goes to those you designate rather than being subject to intestate laws. You can also save your loved ones time, legal fees and conflict. Too often, children who aren’t fond of their parent’s new spouse in the first place find themselves battling with this person over everything from the good china to their parent’s home.

A will should not take the place of a prenuptial agreement. A prenup addresses what happens with your property if a couple breaks up. That’s why it’s wise to have both documents in place. Although a prenup is wise for all couples getting married, it’s particularly important for those who have children, ex-spouses or other family members that they want to protect in a divorce.

Besides documents that detail where your assets will go, an estate plan should include documents that designate who will handle your finances if you’re unable to do so and who will make medical and end-of-life decisions for you (based on wishes that you should detail in the documents) if you’re unable to speak for yourself. If you are remarrying, you should consult with a Louisiana attorney regarding making or amending your estate plan.

Source: 12 News, “Getting remarried? Get a financial plan first,” March 10, 2016


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