Remarriage and Estate Planning

Marriage is always a time for celebration. However, in the event of a remarriage, it is imperative that you and your future spouse also focus on the less romantic process of redrafting your estate plans. Wisconsin is a Marital Property state, which means your marriage will affect the ownership of all of your assets, regardless of how the asset is titled. This change in ownership will affect not only the division of your assets in the event of a divorce, but also the distribution of your assets upon your death. In many instances it will result in a distribution that is substantially different from what you intended, because under Marital Property law the surviving spouse has the right to take a large percentage of the estate, regardless of what the deceased spouse’s Will may state.

You and your future spouse’s respective financial situations and family situations are most likely more complex than when you first married. You probably have more assets and one or both of you may have children from previous relationships. It may, therefore, be in both parties’ interest to execute a prenuptial agreement. In deciding whether or not a prenuptial agreement is appropriate, you and your future spouse should address the following issues:

1. How do the two of you plan to share, or not share, your income and expenses? Do either of you have any significant liabilities for which the other should not be held liable? Health care costs and the cost of long term care should be a significant part of this discussion.

2. In the event of a divorce, how do you want your assets divided? Do either of you have strong feelings about keeping any assets as your “individual” property in the event of a divorce?

3. In the event of your death, how do you want your property to be divided between your surviving spouse and your children? Do you want the majority, if not all, of the assets going to your surviving spouse? Or do you want your children or other family members receiving a significant share?

These are the most significant issues that must be addressed and are also the factors which will determine whether or not a prenuptial agreement is needed. Once these issues have been addressed and, if necessary, a prenuptial agreement has been signed, the rest of your estate planning documents, (Wills, Revocable Trusts, Powers of Attorney, etc.) should be updated to reflect both your decisions and your new marriage.

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