Second marriages... an inheritance dilemma

The number of people marrying for the second or even third time is higher than ever, but it can bring difficult decisions.  Second marriages often leave spouses torn between the need to provide for their present partner and ensure that children from their previous marriage receive an inheritance.

A typical arrangement would be that when the first spouse dies, they leave their estate to their surviving partner.  Upon his or her death, everything is passed to their children.  Most would be happy with this and no difficult decisions arise.

However, second marriages create tough choices.  You may want to leave your entire estate to your surviving spouse (particularly if your home is the main asset), but this puts your children’s inheritance in a vulnerable position.  If you leave your estate to your spouse it will form part of their assets and could pass to beneficiaries of their choosing when they die.  Your spouse is also free to change their will at any time.

Understandably this is a difficult subject to broach with your husband or wife as it raises awkward questions of trust.  However, there are other issues that you should consider.  Your spouse may have very persuasive children, or meet a new partner.  Even creditors of your surviving spouse, such as local authorities for care home fees, can threaten your children’s inheritance.

With careful will planning, however, you can have the best of both worlds.  By using a special type of trust called a life interest trust, your surviving spouse can be provided for during their lifetime and then your estate automatically passes to your children, or other beneficiaries chosen by you.  This method can be very effective if your main asset is your family home.  Upon your death you leave your property - or your share in the property - to your surviving spouse for the rest of their life, or until remarriage if you wish.  Upon their death or remarriage, the property goes to your children.  The will can also stipulate that the surviving spouse may move to a new property so long as it is on the same terms.

This is a useful way to protect your partner’s and your children’s inheritance.  It is vital, however, to seek legal advice to ensure that no complications have been overlooked, as these could result in distress and financial loss to your loved ones.

There are many other techniques that can be used in your will to ensure that your estate is dealt with in the way you want.  Whatever your concerns, we are confident that we can find a way to help you achieve security for your loved ones and peace of mind for yourself.

If you would like to speak to one of our trust specialists then please contact me on 01206 217611 or alternatively email me on ben.parmenter@birkettlong.co.uk.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.