Late life remarriages can — and often do — interfere with the inheritance expectations of adult children and grandchildren. In some cases, the cause is the wish of the remarried spouse to take care of a new (and often much younger) spouse.
A real-life situation that occurred in Georgia illustrates how a late life remarriage can affect inheritance and estate planning. It also demonstrates that an experienced estate planning lawyer can help identify solutions that don’t dismantle the inheritance of adult children from the first marriage.
Earl and Loretta were high school sweethearts. They married soon after graduation, purchased a small farm, and started their family right away. They had two children, who grew up and each had two children of their own. The children and grandchildren were the focus of the couple’s lives. Earl and Loretta wanted them to have the best of everything.
The family farm was a very successful endeavor. Over the years, Earl and Loretta saved a substantial amount of money, which they planned give their children and grandchildren eventually. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens unanticipated events interfered with their plans.
As the couple grew older, Loretta developed substantial health problems. Together, she and the family made the difficult decision that she would receive the best care in a nursing home. Earl paid substantial sums for her care over several decades.
Eventually, Earl decided to wind down the farming operation, which the children had no interest in continuing. Earl and Loretta made the decision to put the farm in trust for their children and grandchildren, to make certain the property would stay in the family. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney helped them set up an asset protection trust for the farm property.
The children invested in the farm property and turned it into a lake house, which they and their families enjoyed almost every weekend. Earl continued to live in the house.
Several years after Loretta passed away from breast cancer, Earl (in his late 70s) met a much younger woman and decided to remarry. With the children’s agreement, Earl and his new spouse lived at the lake house.
Earl became preoccupied with protecting his new spouse financially. He spent most of his and Loretta’s financial assets on her nursing home care, so he had little money remaining to leave his new spouse on his death. He told the children that he wanted his new wife to inherit the farm property, so she would not be homeless when he passed away.
Instead of panicking or arguing with their father, the children decided to talk with the attorney who helped Earl and Loretta put the farm in the trust.
The lawyer assured the children that Earl could not give the farm to his new wife, because the trust was created as an irrevocable asset protection trust. As such, Earl could not change the terms of the trust. She urged the children to convince Earl to talk with an estate planning attorney about his concerns and his estate plan.
Earl followed his children’s advice and visited an experienced estate planning lawyer. He and the attorney reviewed his financial situation and discussed his concerns about the financial well-being of his new spouse. The attorney offered a solution that would protect his new spouse, without affecting the children’s farm property trust.
Earl’s spouse owned a home, which she rented out after marrying Earl. The lawyer suggested selling the home, which was worth a substantial sum, and putting the money in an asset protection trust for her. In addition, the attorney suggested that Earl purchase a life insurance policy with his new spouse as the beneficiary. Between the trust and the life insurance policy, the new spouse would have more than enough assets to take care of all her needs for the rest of her life.
Earl and his new spouse took the lawyer’s advice. The visit to the estate planning attorney avoided a family crisis and provided a solution that addressed Earl’s concerns without creating issues about the farm property trust.
Your family situation and concerns probably are not exactly like what happened in this family. The solutions for you likely are not the same either. However, this real-life story does illustrate three important estate planning truths.
The first truth is that a surviving spouse’s priorities often change after a late life remarriage. The second is that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you find solutions to resolve issues involving family assets. And the third is that planning ahead is the best way to protect everyone in your family.
More discussion and other illustrations about how asset protection trusts safeguard a family legacy is available in three other blog posts:
You also may call us to schedule an appointment to discuss how you can protect your family in the future.
In our Cartersville estate planning practice at Asset Protection & Elder Law of Georgia, we help clients find solutions for many challenging circumstances involving their assets, families, and estates.
We provide a broad range of legal services to clients throughout the communities northwest of Atlanta, including in Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Gordon County, Floyd County and Paulding County.
To schedule a consultation, call us at (770) 382-0984 or contact us through our online form.