I understand that topics like this are usually hard to discuss. You have had a parent that passed away several years ago, and now your surviving parent is considering remarriage. As an adult child, this may cause you some uneasy feelings about mom or dad. However, if you have a parent that is considering remarriage following the death of their first spouse later in life, it is time to have an important discussion with mom or dad.
John and Jane’s Story
John had been married for nearly 40 years to Jane when she passed away. They had three wonderful children together, who were all grown and had families of their own. About 8 years after Jane died, John met a wonderful woman, Elizabeth, who also was widowed. Elizabeth lost her husband about 5 year ago. Elizabeth also had two children from her prior marriage. As their relationship progressed, John and Elizabeth discussed moving in together and getting married. Ultimately, they decided to do so.
As many married couples do, John and Elizabeth buy a home together and title it jointly. They also have a number of joint bank accounts, investments accounts, and other financial accounts. Unfortunately, about 7 years after John and Elizabeth got married, John passed away following a short illness. When John died, all of his assets, passed via his Last Will and Testament to his wife Elizabeth. John and Elizabeth owned their home jointly, so Elizabeth was the sole remaining owner.
Five years after John’s death, Elizabeth passes away. John’s three children hear about Elizabeth’s death and pay their respects at her funeral. A few months later, after seeing a legal notice in the local paper regarding Elizabeth’s will being filed with the court, they call Elizabeth’s children regarding the estate. John’s children are shocked to learn that everything that John and Jane had saved and earned during their 40-year marriage were going to go to Elizabeth’s children and family. In the end, John and Jane’s three children and their grandchildren end up with nothing.
Discussing Prenuptial Agreements and Revocable Living Trusts with Your Parent Prior to Remarriage
When a person gets remarried later in life following the death of a spouse, they will sometimes fail to consider the legal ramifications of their actions after the marriage (buying a home jointly with their new spouse, comingling bank accounts, opening joint financial accounts, etc.) This is why it is so important to speak with your parent and have a frank and open discussion regarding why there are concerns about remarriage.
The following is a list of every legal document that a parent should have following the death of a spouse before considering remarriage:
- Prenuptial Agreement
- Separate Revocable Living Trust
- Last Will and Testament
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- HIPAA Authorization
- Living Will
- Statement of Final Instructions
The following is a list of important items of discussion that you should have with your parent and your parent should have with the soon to be new spouse:
- The Importance of Keeping Assets Titled Separately
- If You Intend to Buy a New Home, How You Wish to Have the Home Titled, and How You Wish the Home to Pass Upon the First Spouse’s Death (Need to Consider Fairness to Both Families)
- If One Spouse is Moving into the Home of the Other Spouse, a Discussion About Why the Home Will Continue to Be Titled in the Name of the Other Spouse’s Living Trust
- What Are Each of Your Wishes for Your Respective Children Upon Your Deaths
- When One Spouse Dies, Discuss a Reasonable Period of Time in Which the Other Spouse Can Remain Living in the Home Even After Ownership Has Been Transferred to Your Children
These are all items that every family should discuss and important legal documents that every parent should have in place prior to remarriage. It is important to ensure that both families are on the same page so that you can have a healthy marriage while protecting the children from the first marriage, as well as avoiding the John and Jane Disaster mentioned above!
If you have questions regarding remarriage after the death of a first spouse, please call us at (615) 472-2482 or e-mail us and we will forward some valuable FREE information on How to Talk to Mom or Dad About Remarriage.
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