Protecting Your Assets in Second Marriages: The Inconvenient Truth
August 18, 2023
By Jessica Cook
Family dynamics are undergoing significant transformations in the ever-shifting landscape of modern relationships. Notably, a third of all marriages in England and Wales now involve at least one partner who has been previously married. This shift brings to the forefront intricate issues related to inheritance and estate planning.
This detailed analysis emphasises the criticality of establishing a Trust during one’s lifetime, particularly in the backdrop of second marriages, to shield assets and guarantee that offspring from prior unions are not unintentionally disinherited.
Second Marriages and the Inheritance Conundrum
A growing segment of the UK population is embracing second marriages, frequently integrating children from prior relationships into their new family unit. This amalgamation of families introduces distinct challenges in the realm of estate planning. Without meticulous planning and foresight, there looms a tangible threat of children from the inaugural marriage being deprived of their rightful inheritance.
As per prevailing inheritance regulations in the UK, in the absence of a definitive will, the new spouse stands to inherit the lion’s share, if not all, potentially side-lining children from a previous union. A lesser-known fact is that a second marriage automatically revokes any pre-existing will. This oversight can lead to a precarious situation, as in the absence of a renewed will, the default intestacy laws would govern asset distribution, which may not resonate with the deceased’s intentions.
It’s pivotal to highlight that there have been reported cases where certain individuals have swayed their partners into modifying their wills to accrue a more substantial asset portion. While this isn’t a sweeping statement, it accentuates the necessity of having transparent, legally robust mechanisms in place to thwart potential undue influences and guarantee the intended asset allocation.
The other scenario that should be considered.
No one plans untimely fatality, yet it happens. The mortality rate in 2020 for people in England and Wales in their late 40s and fifties was around 8%.
So you’ve worked hard all your life. Your kids have just finished university and you are preparing for the next chapter. You have pension savings and a home, all worth a tidy sum. And one day, your children and grandchildren may inherit some or all of this.
Then disaster happens, and one of you passes away; following a period of devastation in the family, the remaining partner moves on with their life. Meeting another partner and eventually remarrying. It’s at this point everything changes. The assets you have worked for and accumulated together with your previous partner could now become the assets of someone, who at the time you were previously both alive, was a complete stranger.
We are sorry to say this type of thing, in life or in death, for widowers or divorcees, is extremely common. If you look at the numbers, it’s close to 40% of marriages; this can and will happen at some level.
To encapsulate: Second marriages usher in distinct challenges in the domain of estate planning
Recognising these challenges and adopting proactive strategies, like instituting a trust, is paramount to ensure the protection and provision for all family members. As the adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” By initiating the requisite measures now, one can pave the way for a secure and equitable future for the entire family.
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