When you are contemplating going into a second marriage, you need to think through your estate plan, especially if you have children from your first marriage.
You cannot take it for granted that your children from your previous marriage can get along harmoniously with your new spouse and your new children. It is not uncommon that your children feel resentment towards your new spouse, and these feelings are not openly communicated to you while you are alive, only to be manifested when you die. This is especially so when the age of your children and your new spouse are similar. One potential trigger point is the perceived unfair distribution of your estate. This perception may be held by your current surviving spouse, children, children from your first marriage, your elderly parents, and even your ex-spouse.
Therefore, it is not uncommon to see tensions between various parties over your estate when you die or lose your mental capacity. It is also common to see such issues being settled in court and details of such issues being reported by media.
Hence, estate planning is very important if you are entering or are already in a second marriage. There are four common concerns in such situations:
- How can I protect my assets while entering into a second marriage? Will my accumulated assets be part of my matrimonial assets in the second marriage? If the second marriage ends up in a divorce, will my assets be diluted because of the divorce suit?
- How can I ensure that the property left by my first spouse ultimately passes to my children of that marriage?
- How can I ensure that the current surviving spouse has sufficient resources to provide for his/her needs upon my death?
- How can I ensure that I do not exclude my children (from my first marriage) unintentionally from my estate when my second spouse dies subsequently? (This can happen when you use joint-ownership to own assets with your second spouse.)
Estate Planning Implications
- Your current will is revoked upon your second marriage.
- Your current CPF nomination will be revoked upon your second marriage.
- Your previous life insurance nominations remain valid.
- Stepchildren have no legal rights under the intestate succession act when you die. Therefore, if you die first, and pass on assets to your second spouse who subsequently dies, your children might not have legal entitlement to your assets.
- Your surviving spouse’s financial provision might be compromised when you die.
- A perceived unfair estate distribution might cause tension between family members.
- Over-reliance on joint-ownerships to own assets with your spouse could result in the unintentional exclusion of your children from your estate.
Estate Planning Solutions
- You need to re-write your will.
- You need to review your lasting power of attorney, especially on the election of donee.
- You need to re-do your CPF nomination.
- You should review your life insurance nominations.
- You should review the financial needs of your spouse when you die.
- Plan and communicate your estate distribution intentions in writing. It is good practice to leave behind a letter in writing to explain the rationale of your estate plan.
- Consider using a trust, the assignment of your life policies, and a life policy nomination to transfer assets to your beneficiaries at your death, especially for your children from your first marriage.
- Consider using a trust to hold and preserve your estate if your beneficiaries are facing legal or matrimonial issues.
- Consider using trusts to time the distribution of your estate to your beneficiaries if they lack discipline to manage finances.