I am middle age, engaged to be married shortly. I have a 19 and 24-year old; my fiance has a 12 and 10 year old. Each of us has wills leaving our assets to our own children. When we marry, what should be done in regard to our estates? Our assets are not likely to exceed $600,000.

Assets Remarriage Children Asset Protection Estate Planning

I am middle age, engaged to be married shortly. I have a 19 and 24-year old; my fiance has a 12 and 10 year old. Each of us has wills leaving our assets to our own children. When we marry, what should be done in regard to our estates? Our assets are not likely to exceed $600,000.

There is no one answer, but what you each want makes sense and seems fair and reasonable. Here are some recommendations:
1. Prepare a pre-marital agreement that waives claims against the other’s estate. It may also allow you to keep the property you bring into the marriage separate, so if things don’t work out, neither of you lose what you started with. That’s not being “unromantic”, just realistic.
2. Prepare new wills. One approach is to leave your pre-marital property to your kids from the first marriage and leave your post-marital property (other than any future inheritances) to each other.
3. Buy an inexpensive TERM life insurance policy on each other to protect each of you financially in the event of the other’s death. If you are in decent health and in your 40s-50s, these policies can be relatively inexpensive, perhaps $800 per year for $100,000 worth of coverage.
4. Agree to re-examine your situation in 5 years. If you still both feel the same way, leave it alone. However, you may feel differently in 30 years.
5. Realize that most people’s major assets are their life insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k)s and similar plans. Name new beneficiaries and get consent from the other to name your own kids as beneficiaries and waive any spousal rights.
6. Consider using Q-TIP trusts for a jointly owned home that gives the surviving spouse the value of the other’s half for life and then at the second death, the value of one spouse’s half goes to the first to die’s kids unless it is actually needed for the survivor’s support.

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