The rate of second and third marriages in the United States continues to increase. Each spouse may bring children, assets, heirlooms, and very specific wishes into the new marriage. Some want their children to inherit the bulk of the assets. Others want specific heirlooms (painting / jewelry / watch) to be passed down to specific people. Relationships within the extended family can deteriorate very fast. A written agreement can provide a useful method to maintain civility.
In New York, if a person dies without a Will, a spouse is entitled to inherit approximately 50% of the deceased spouse’s assets. This result may not seem too fair if the bulk of the assets were earned prior to the marriage.
Even if a person dies with a Will in which he left the bulk of his assets to his children, his spouse is entitled to claim her “elective share” of 1/3 of the total estate. That means that you cannot disinherit your spouse. Unless, of course, that spouse agrees to be disinherited. This agreement is called either a prenuptial or a post-nuptial agreement (depending on the time when it was signed).
I have seen a lot of strife amongst the families after a person’s death, where families fight over silverware, paintings, furniture and photographs. Don’t let it happen to your family.
So if you are in your second (or third marriage) or contemplating one, talk to an estate planning attorney.
Disclaimer: This article only offers general information. Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions. As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.