Estate plans may seem static and unchanging, but they often demand revision. Any significant life event, from the birth of a child to a divorce or remarriage, could compromise the integrity of even the best-constructed estate plan. Estate planning for a second marriage | California Estate Planning Lawyer

Understanding the Need for an Updated Estate Plan in CA

Despite two people’s best efforts, marriage doesn’t always last. After the death of a spouse or a hotly-contested divorce, moving on with another partner could offer the promise of a fresh start. However, remarriage can create complications.

California, like most states, has a probate code that sets certain expectations for inheritance and succession. Without a comprehensive estate plan, the court could order that your assets be distributed in accordance with a strict legal formula—one that may privilege your new spouse to the exclusion of your friends, family, and biological children.

Under certain limited circumstances, the failure to update an estate plan could lead to an ex-spouse receiving unintended benefits, whether from a life insurance policy or a transfer-upon-death cash account.

How Remarriage Could Complicate an Estate Plan 

The Golden State’s intestate succession laws privilege surviving spouses, biological children, and other close blood relations. If you do not have a will, a California probate court could make inheritance decisions on your behalf—decisions that may not reflect your intent or the wishes of your intended heirs. Even if you already have an estate plan, it may need to be amended after remarriage.

Reasons to Amend Your Will

  • Disinherit a former spouse
  • Accommodate a new partner
  • Protect the rights of your biological children

What to Consider When Creating or Revising a CA Estate Plan

Estate planning is typically a collaborative process, with both spouses making decisions intended to protect their health, wealth, and intergenerational aspirations.

However, second marriages can create estate-planning conflicts. You should ask yourself the following questions before committing to a plan:

  • If you, or your spouse, have children from your previous marriages, what assets will be left to your children?
  • Do you plan to have more children with your new spouse? If so, how will you accommodate their inheritance in your estate plan?
  • Are you or your spouse bringing any significant debt into the marriage?
  • Does your existing will or revocable living trust need to be amended to accommodate your new marriage?

Considering these types of questions provides an opportunity to understand your own estate planning goals and to ensure that you and your spouse can make informed decisions that protect your loved ones.

Protecting Your Children’s Rights to Inheritance After a Second Marriage

California is one of several states with community property laws. Under the Golden State’s community property system, most assets acquired during the course of a marriage are considered joint marital assets. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is accorded a one-half interest in the remaining community property.

While community property laws can protect the surviving spouse’s personal and financial interests, they could jeopardize the decedent’s children’s rights to a fair inheritance. If, for example, the deceased spouse had intended for their family home to pass on to their biological children, California’s community property system could make it difficult—if not downright impossible—to re-title the home without the surviving spouse’s consent.

An experienced California estate planning attorney could help you protect your estate by:

The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. for Your Estate Planning Needs

If you need to create an estate plan, update your current plan, or handle the estate of someone who’s died, The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. is here to help. We only handle estate planning and post-death administration, and together, our attorneys have more than 70 years of combined experience in these fields.

Our law firm has helped over 25,000 people in California leave a lasting legacy to their loved ones, getting to know each client, listening to their concerns, and learning about their needs and goals to create a plan that carries out their wishes. Additionally, we’ve implemented 4,000 plans after clients have passed away. 

Do You Need To Speak With An Estate Planning Attorney?

If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.