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Estate planning considerations after a Colorado remarriage

According to a new CNBC article, 17 percent of divorced or widowed people marry again, citing the U.S. Census Bureau. Interestingly, the remarriage rate has increased only among people 55 and older.

Of course, a Coloradan entering a second or subsequent marriage may be busy establishing a new life, but it is still important to talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer about updating his or her estate plan. Remarried spouses are likely to want to make changes in preferences regarding who will make financial and medical decisions for them in case of disability and how their assets will pass during life and after death.

Unique issues in remarriage

Major considerations for many people in these circumstances are:

  • Providing for children from previous relationships, particularly if any are disabled
  • Seeing that children from previous relationships receive heirlooms or real estate relevant to their families of origin
  • Providing for other relatives with disabilities like a parent or sibling
  • Ensuring that the new spouse’s name is incorporated into (and the former spouse’s name removed from) important documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives, insurance policies, retirement accounts and others
  • Medicaid planning for the eventual possibility of long-term care needs
  • Naming guardians for minor children from the new marriage
  • Preventing the new spouse from the right to ownership interest in a family business

Palette of techniques

Depending on the circumstances, a variety of estate planning techniques could accomplish given goals. For example, the remarried person may draft a new will or negotiate a post-marital agreement. Someone in a second marriage might decide to make certain gifts outright to children from a previous relationship to ensure that property meaningful to those kids goes to them. Real estate or financial accounts might be retitled into joint ownership. Beneficiaries on insurance policies, retirement accounts and similar assets should be updated.

A person in a second marriage who has never had a will risks having assets pass via Colorado intestate succession laws that direct who gets property if there is no will. The state’s directed division of assets is not likely to match the owner’s idea of where they should go.

Finally, if a new spouse moves into the family home, the owner spouse might want to give the new spouse the right to live there until death, but then have it pass to children from a previous marriage, rather than to the heirs of the new spouse.

This just scratches the surface of the myriad of estate planning concerns of second spouses. Sitting down with a lawyer is the beginning of allaying those concerns.

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