Estates & Wills & Trusts

Getting remarried? Three conversations to have before you say ‘I do’

By Michele Allinotte

Wedding planning season is upon us. Many area couples are marrying late in life and might be trying their hand at love for the second or third time. But, as many newly remarried couples will soon find out, starting a new life together can get downright complicated, especially when there are premarital assets and children from previous marriages thrown into the mix.

As unromantic as it seems, talking about, and planning for, these upcoming life changes, can save the new couple (and their extended families) from much confusion, tension and heartache should complications such as death, incapacity or marital problems arise in the future.

To ensure couples start their new marriage on the right foot, you and your intended should have the following three conversations before saying “I do”:

  1. How do we handle pre-marital assets?

A large majority of couples who get remarried come into the relationship with pre-marital assets, including property, cash settlements, life insurance policies, business interests, etc. It’s critical to discuss whether or not these assets will be combined, but also what should happen to these assets if you suddenly pass away. This is especially important for people with children from a previous relationship who may want to leave this portion of their estate to their kids, rather than the new spouse.

  1. What are your wishes for incapacity?

Everyone remembers the legal nightmare Terry Shiavo’s parents faced trying to keep their incapacitated daughter alive while her husband sought to remove her feeding tube. He claimed that’s what she would have wanted, but was it really? We’ll never know because her wishes were not put in writing. Doing so would have saved her family thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of heartache when her accident occurred. That’s why before getting remarried, it’s always a good idea for couples to discuss their health care wishes openly and put such wishes in writing should temporary or permanent incapacity occur. This will help to reduce animosity, strife and lengthy court battles following a medical emergency.

  1. What happens to the kids?

When blending a family, it’s important to discuss what should happen to the kids if the death of one or both parents occurred. There are many scenarios which could arise – none of which may be what the deceased parent wanted for their children. This could include the new stepparent getting full custody or children from a previous marriage getting separated from biological children of the new marriage. Planning in advance for these situations will help ensure a smoother transition for the kids during an otherwise devastating and emotional time.

By being open and honest, couples getting remarried can thoughtfully work through these issues and make a mutually agreeable plan for the future. Doing so could spare the family from years of heartache and court battles if the unthinkable occurs.

Couples should also be aware that, in Ontario, a previous will is revoked by marriage. Even if you already have a will, it will no longer be valid once you are legally married – unless you have made your will in contemplation of marrying the person you have said “I do” to.

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