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Second marriages require revamping estate plan

Studies show that an increasing number of people in Florida and the rest of the nation will be married more than once in their lives. Second marriages can bring happiness and companionship, but they can also bring complications, both emotional and financial. One aspect of a second marriage which many people neglect to consider is its effect on estate planning.

Florida residents who get married for a second time (or third, or so on) may think that a will they wrote during an earlier marriage will still do what it was intended to do now that they have a new spouse. That's not necessarily the case. Florida law provides protections to keep a spouse from being totally disinherited. Under these laws, upon a married person's death, at least a portion of the deceased's estate passes to the surviving spouse automatically, unless the survivor has signed an explicit waiver of that right.

For most married people, this doesn't present any problems, because they would like their surviving spouse to inherit something anyway. However, people on their second marriage may already have children from previous relationships and may need to change a plan to make sure there is enough estate left over for everyone to have an inheritance. A will that has not been updated to reflect a new marriage is a recipe for ugly family disputes in the future.

Another thing to consider in estate planning for a second marriage is the title for the couple's primary residence. It's fairly common for people to come into a second marriage already owning a home. This home will legally be in that partner's name only. When that partner dies, the surviving spouse does not automatically inherit it.

One common estate planning solution for this is to write a will granting a life estate to the surviving spouse, meaning the survivor owns the home until death, when it passes to the first spouse's heirs. One problem with life estates is that they can box in the survivor, who can't sell the home without infringing upon the rights of the first spouse's heirs.

There are many things to consider when getting married for a second time in Florida. This should be a happy time in a person's life, and a well-revised estate plan can make sure that a second marriage doesn't mean new conflicts and bitterness in the future.

Source: Huffington Post, "Estate Planning In A Second Marriage," Ann Margaret Carrozza, March 28, 2013

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