Ideally, there should not be any necessity for estate planning. In a congenial family atmosphere, surviving members would amicably divide everything equitably and set matters at rest.
In Utopia, maybe. But not in the real world.
In reality, the differences, dissentions, and squabbles often witnesses among the surviving members of the deceased’s family make estate planning an indispensable exercise. It acquires added significance in the case of a second (or third!) marriages.
If the marriage truly is one of “’til death do us part”, then invariably all assets remain in joint ownership or control, and on the death of one, the assets pass almost seamlessly the surviving spouse, eventually to be handed down to the children when the remaining parent dies. In today’s day and age, however, this is more the exception that the norm. In reality, three out of four marriages end in an often-messy divorce.
Matters get even more complicated on remarriage. More so if both spouses have been married before and both have children from earlier marriages. Consider the scenario: one spouse dies and the other inherits everything. The survivor later dies and leaves all assets to his/her children. Everything goes to the second-dying spouse’s own children, to the exclusion of the first-dying spouse’s children. One branch of the family loses out on inheriting any share of the estate – and it’s highly unlikely that their parent intended this to happen. Estate planning assumes significant importance in view of the above-mentioned scenario. It would be prudent to have a proper estate plan in order to overcome any possible complications.
Firstly, both spouses need to sit together and formulate a plan about the estate. To begin with, both can prepare separate lists of assets that he/she has brought into the marriage. Then you can share the lists and discuss the future financial issues that you will face as a couple. Retirement plans also need to be taken into consideration. It is vitally important to discuss how each would like his/her estate wishes to be carried out in the event of death of each spouse, especially with respect to children from previous marriages as well as the present marriage.
Make a list of life insurance policies each of you has with details of the company, death benefit amounts, and the beneficiaries and so on. Make sure that the names and other details of the beneficiaries are correct. Apart from the assets that may be acquired in the future, there may be bequests that each spouse may wish to leave, which need to be disposed in favour of a particular person. There may also be a need to discuss the support of aged parents and whether suitable provisions need to be made in the estate plan.
Drawing up or redrafting your will is best done:
- Immediately once you get married
- Immediately once the decision to get a divorce is taken
- When you have children
- Once you get remarried
However, as long as you are alive and of sound mind, it is never too late to draft or review your will.
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.