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Second Marriage and Estate Planning

DeChello Law Firm LLC April 1, 2024

Couples discussing estate plan with attorneySecond marriages introduce a new chapter to the script of your family and personal legacy. It's necessary to consider not only your own estate planning but also that of your new spouse, any children of your new spouse, and any children of your former spouse.  

At DeChello Law Firm LLC, where we operate on the guiding principle of preparing for life’s complexity through astute legal counsel, we understand the unique considerations of second marriages. We can sit down with you to examine your estate plan and how it may be affected by your second marriage. Don't feel that you must face these uncertainties alone. Reach out for help from our estate planning and elder law attorneys today.

Key Estate Planning Matters to Consider

For many folks entering into a second marriage, reevaluating the legacy they are passing down is not just a choice, but a necessity. The first step in this venture is to understand how second marriages and blended families can reshuffle the proverbial deck of assets and beneficiaries. 

Updating your estate plan after a second marriage requires careful consideration of several critical factors. Here are some you'll likely want to address with your estate lawyer:  

  • Assess the distribution of assets acquired before and during marriage 

  • Consider the new spouse, children from a previous marriage, and mutual children 

  • Review wills, trusts, beneficiary designations 

  • Establish a trust for the protection of current spouse and children from previous relationships 

  • Update power of attorney and healthcare directives 

  • Emphasize open communication to prevent conflicts 

State Laws That Will Come Into Play

In Connecticut, the law provides clear guidance for estate planning, particularly in circumstances involving second marriages and blended families.  

One pivotal statute that impacts such familial arrangements is the concept of "elective share." This legal provision ensures that a surviving spouse receives a portion of the deceased spouse's estate, regardless of the initial estate plan. Specifically, in Connecticut, a surviving spouse may be entitled to claim up to one-third of the estate's value, a measure designed to offer financial protection post-mortem. 

Another crucial aspect to consider is the treatment of stepchildren under Connecticut law. Unlike biological or legally adopted children, stepchildren do not automatically have inheritance rights unless explicitly named in a will or trust. This has significant implications for blended families, necessitating meticulous estate planning to ensure that assets are distributed in alignment with personal wishes rather than default legal frameworks. 

These layers of statutory protection and restriction underscore the necessity for individuals in second marriages to seek competent legal advice.  

Tailoring an estate plan in Connecticut demands a nuanced understanding of how state laws interact with personal objectives, aiming to craft a legacy that honors blended family dynamics while safeguarding financial futures. 

Second Marriages and the Best Estate Planning Approach

When it comes to estate planning for second marriages, the 'best approach' is a subjective terrain. No two families are alike, and as such, no estate plan should be treated as a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one may result in a discordant note for another. 

The common pillars of any estate plan involve a will, a trust, and healthcare directives or powers of attorney—but the actionable details are where the plan finds its uniqueness. This is where you and your attorney must grapple with the nuances of your shared financial portfolio and familial fabric. It's about setting the right amount aside for your surviving spouse, providing for children from a previous marriage, and ensuring equitable treatment across the board while considering the intricacies of personal dynamics. 

Considerations ranging from joint life insurance policies to beneficiary designations are the minutiae where an estate plan is truly tested. Forging a new legacy in sync with your second marriage requires more than the paperwork; it requires a compassionate and strategic approach that DeChello Law Firm LLC champions with conviction. 

Estate Distribution in Second Marriages

Understanding the complexities of estate distribution in second marriages under Connecticut state law requires in-depth knowledge, especially in terms of what the second spouse is entitled to upon the death of their husband. The concept of "elective share" plays a crucial role here. In essence, this statute is designed to prevent a surviving spouse from being left destitute by ensuring they receive a portion of the deceased spouse's estate. 

For the second wife in Connecticut, the law entitles her to claim an "elective share" of the "augmented estate," depending on how long they were married

  • Less than 1 year: Supplemental amount only  

  • 1-2 years: 5% of the augmented estate 

  • 2-3 years: 10% of the augmented estate 

  • 3-4 years: 15% of the augmented estate 

  • 4-5 years: 20% of the augmented estate 

  • 5-6 years: 25% of the augmented estate  

  • 6-7 years: 30% of the augmented estate  

  • 7-8 years: 35% of the augmented estate  

  • 8-9 years: 40% of the augmented estate  

  • 9-10 years: 45% of the augmented estate  

  • 10+ years: 50% of the augmented estate 

Augmented estate includes not only the probate assets but also certain non-probate assets that were either transferred upon death or within a set period before death. It's a safety net embedded within the law, aimed at balancing the deceased's testamentary freedom with the surviving spouse's financial security. 

However, the elective share is not automatic; the surviving spouse must actively claim it within a specified timeframe after the deceased's death, typically within six months. This act of claiming does not preclude her from receiving more if the will or trust provides for a greater amount, but it sets a statutory minimum. 

The nuance comes in when considering previously made agreements such as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, which may explicitly outline different arrangements about the distribution of assets upon death. If such agreements exist and are deemed valid, they take precedence over the statutory entitlement, potentially altering what the second wife inherits. 

Given the blend of assets, previous agreements, and the dynamics of blended families, the situation underscores the necessity for tailored estate planning.  

A thoughtful and comprehensive approach, ideally formulated with skilled legal guidance, can ensure that the estate is distributed in a manner that reflects the deceased's wishes while also adhering to Connecticut's legal framework and protecting the interests of the surviving spouse. 

Get the Comprehensive Guidance You Need 

Second marriages and estate planning are instruments that must be tuned to each other's pitch. At DeChello Law Firm LLC, we stand committed to orchestrating this tune.  

We’ve uncovered the significance of not just forging an estate plan, but crafting one that stands as a testament to your reworked love story. With the right approach to estate planning, you can secure a future that honors your present, while leaving a legacy that lives on in harmony with your second chance at love.