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Your Will is Probably Still Valid After Your Marriage or Remarriage

It is important that you are re-evaluating your estate plan about every five years (and after a major life event) to make certain that it still meets your needs. However, if you have a will (or a trust) and then you get married/remarried, it is imperative that you understand the consequences of what will happen to your estate if you do not execute a new one after your marriage or remarriage.

Hypothetical 1:  Adam has two adult children from a prior relationship. He has a will that gives his entire estate to his two adult children equally upon his death. Adam then marries Jessica and they move into a home that is owned by Adam.  He makes no changes to his will.  Adam passes away 15 years after marrying Jessica.  Jessica and Adam’s children do not get along.

Analysis: Adam’s will is valid.  However, Jessica is entitled to make a claim against the estate in probate court, which will be granted because as Adam’s wife Jessica is automatically entitled, under Minnesota law, to certain assets of the estate even if the will does not provide for such.  She will be allowed to request maintenance from the estate of up to $2,300 a month for up to 18 months.  In addition, she will be allowed a life estate in the homestead (even though the will states that the homestead goes to Adam’s two adult children).  Furthermore, she will be able to make a claim for personal property.  Moreover, she will be able to make a claim for the elective-share percentage of what is referred to as the augmented estate. The augmented estate refers to all of the decedent’s assets, including those assets that pass outside of probate such as life insurance beneficiaries, joint tenancy, payable upon death accounts, retirement beneficiaries, and real property that transfers upon death. Jessica’s elective share because of her 15 year marriage to Adam will be 50% of the augmented estate.  Adam’s children are upset that they do not get 100% of their father’s estate and that they cannot evict Jessica from the homestead that they feel is rightfully theirs.

Hypothetical 2:  Chris is married to Sarah.  Chris has a will.  Chris and Sarah get divorced.  Chris then dies.  Sarah is named as the beneficiary of Chris’ entire estate in his will. Sarah is happy.

Analysis: Sarah is going to end up unhappy because she is not going to get any of Chris’ estate. The dissolution of marriage by operation of law revokes Chris’ designation of Sarah as the beneficiary.

Hypothetical 3:  Clara and John are married. They have a child Martha and complete a will giving everything to each other, and then to their child if they die at the same time. They then get divorced.  But five years later they get remarried. Clara then dies. Martha believes that because of the divorce she gets all of Clara’s assets.

Analysis: While the divorce revoked the designation to the spouse, the subsequent remarriage revived it. Martha is upset.

Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP assists individuals and business owners with their estate planning needs.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.