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The estate planning dilemma of a second marriage

Many people neglect to consider how their comprehensive estate plan might change upon a second or third marriage. Whether your marriage ended through divorce or untimely death, it is crucial to consider the changes that need to be made to wills, trusts, powers of attorney or other estate planning documents.

The same reasons you worked with an attorney to develop an estate plan all of those years ago are still valid. In fact, it might be more important to revisit those documents than it was to develop the originals in the first place. If you remarry, your estate planning documents might list the wrong heirs, health care proxy or organizations to be funded by a trust. It is crucial that you explore the language of the original documents to ensure the correct parties are listed.

Nowhere is this discrepancy more prevalent than in estate litigation. In the worst case scenario, you are involved in a fatal accident before you had a chance to update your wishes. In this case, your estate will likely be mired in months or years of litigation to reach a successful compromise regarding the distribution of your assets.

Even more complex is the possibility of children in your second marriage. If your will does not specifically mention your new family members, the probate process and resulting litigation can be contentious and emotionally charged . . . essentially pitting one family against the other.

To avoid unnecessary litigation, it is important that you work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your documents are accurate and up-to-date. The best way to avoid future trouble is by being proactive in the present.

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