Adult children generally expect that their parents will leave the majority of their resources to them when they die. Especially if parents have divorced or lost their spouse, it is a common expectation that their children will inherit most, if not all, of their property.
Therefore, when a parent remarries, the children in the family may feel worried about the possibility of disinheritance in favor of the new spouse. A discussion with them and a decision to revisit estate planning can certainly help assuage those concerns. Here are some issues you may want to proactively address:
1. Concerns about medical preferences
Adult children often assume a support role in the lives of their widowed or unmarried parents by agreeing to accept power of attorney in the event of an emergency and to carry out their parent’s wishes. Concerns that a new spouse might deviate from someone’s medical preferences are common. Those who are remarrying late in life can reduce the likelihood of conflict related to their care after an emergency by putting together advanced directives and powers of attorney that reaffirm their choices.
2. Worries about specific assets
Even if the children of someone who remarries accept and believe that their parent will not fully disinherit them, there may be reason for concern about specific assets, like the primary home of the parent or personal items and family heirlooms that have emotional significance for the whole family.
There are estate planning tools, like trusts, that can help reduce the likelihood of conflict arising related to specific assets by granting a spouse access to those assets without giving them permanent control over them.
3. Fears about changes to the parent-child relationship
Children will naturally worry about anything that will interfere with their relationship with their parents. The idea that a stepparent might alienate them from a parent (perhaps in an effort to influence an individual’s estate plan for personal benefit), is a concern that children may have when older parents remarry. Clarifying one’s estate planning wishes early in a new marriage can reduce concerns about future alienation and attempts to influence a parent’s legacy in a way that would undermine the rights of the children in the family.
Remarriage will inevitably alter someone’s finances and familial circumstances. Therefore, a late-in-life marriage necessitates the creation of new estate planning documents or, at least, the revision of any existing paperwork. Updating documents to address the top concerns that adult children will have about their parent’s remarriage can help smooth the transition for the whole family.