Ideally, there shouldn’t be any necessity for estate planning. In a congenial, perfect family, surviving members would amicably divide everything equitably without a squabble, and set matters to rest with minimal fuss.
In Utopia, maybe. But we live in the real world.
In reality, death often leads to dissention. Arguments among the surviving members of the deceased’s family make estate planning an indispensable exercise. A will becomes even more essential in the case of a second marriage.
If the marriage truly is one of “’til death do us part”, then invariably on the death of one spouse all assets would merely pass on to the surviving spouse. And will eventually be handed down to their children when the remaining parent dies. In today’s day and age, however, this is more the exception that the norm. According to the stats, as many as two out of three marriages end in an often-messy and acrimonious divorce.
Estate planning becomes even more interesting on remarriage. More so if both spouses have been married before and both have children from previous relationships. In such a situation, if one person dies leaving everything to their new spouse, and if the surviving spouse later dies leaving all assets to his/her children to the exclusion of their stepchildren, this could deprive one branch of the family completely from getting any share of their parent’s estate. Estate planning assumes significant importance in view of this scenario. It is highly recommended for every couple to have a proper estate plan which addresses these complications.
Both spouses should work together to formulate a plan about the estate. To begin with, you can both prepare separate lists of assets that you’ve brought into the relationship. Make a list of insurance policies each of you has with details of the insurer, death benefit amounts, and the beneficiaries. Make sure that the details of the beneficiaries are correct. Discuss the future financial issues that you anticipate that you will face as a couple. It is important to canvass how each of you would like your estate to be dealt with on your death. 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 of 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. And, of course, particular attention needs to be paid to inheritances intended for any children from previous marriages as well as the present marriage. And crucially, make sure that these wishes are reflected in your wills.
Drafting or redrafting your will is best done:
- Immediately once you get married or move in with your life partner
- Immediately once the decision to separate or 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.