New York Inheritance Issues in Second Marriages

October 3, 2011

Proper Inheritance planning requires much more than simply filing in the blanks on standardized forms. That is why experienced New York estate planning attorneys are essential advisors when local community members are evaluating their long-term financial preparations. Proper planning of these affairs requires consideration of unique family dynamics and an ability to anticipate potential issues before they actually arise. Anticipating possible conflict and accounting for it ahead of time is one of the main benefits that local residents can derive from creating and updating their New York estate plan.

For example, local families often have concerns about the effect that a second marriage will have on their inheritance plans. Many emotions are at play when a parent remarries after a divorce or the death of a spouse. As a CNN story this weekend explained, adult children commonly express apprehension when a parent re-enters the dating pool or indicates a wish to get remarried. Financial concerns are occasionally the cause of that trepidation. One woman who lost her father several years ago explained, "I want my mom to be happy, but how do I know that her suitors don't have ulterior motives? I'm concerned that she'll jump into another marriage and her second husband will take advantage of her financially."

Conversations between loved ones about these issues are frequently thorny and often result in strained family relationships. On one hand, as the article author notes, a parent is free to use their finances as they see fit. After all, an inheritance is not an entitlement but a gift. However, adult children need not stand by if a parent is genuinely making damaging financial decisions or is legitimately being taken advantage of--elder financial exploitation is a common problem. Therefore, in these situations an experienced, trained professional can often provide a crucial perspective to balance the competing concerns.

Helping families in these situations is a role that our New York estate planning lawyers have filled for years. For example, many widows and widowers control significant assets held in trust. In those situations it is often advisable to have a lawyer act as co-trustee, providing a layer of protection for the family. Having the assistance a trusted attorney typically provides comfort to adult children who may be concerned about a second spouse's ability to take control of the assets. The lawyer acting as co-trustee can help the surviving spouse invest for his or her own benefit without forgetting the need to grow the principal for the benefit of heirs. It is not easy to fairly account for the needs of each party involved in these situations. However, the task is made manageable when a family has the aid of a professional who has worked in similar situations in the past and knows what to expect.

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