Help! My Widow Is Remarrying
You thought you’d done the right and loving thing. You left the estate to your spouse or partner in your will. You’re looking after each other. You both assume that when the other person dies, they will leave the estate to your children.
But what if my widow or widower remarries? What if they marry someone who has their own children? When my widow/widower dies, will my estate pass on to this new person and his/her offspring? What if my widow/widower decides to cut my children out of their will?
Most people have a huge level of trust that spouses living beyond them will do the right thing by the kids. But Joshua Crowther, a wills specialist at Stacks Law Firm, warns the law regarding wills isn’t so clear or trusting.
“Put simply, you cannot rule from the grave. If you leave your combined estate to your spouse, then your surviving spouse can do with it what they want,” Joshua Crowther said.
“I find surviving spouses often change their will and leave everything to their new partner or their own children, cutting out offspring of their late spouse.
“Unfortunately there is no law that guarantees the estate passes on down the line as the first to die may wish, but there are things you can do to help the inheritance pass down the right way,” Mr Crowther said.
“For example, if you leave everything to your wife on trust for her lifetime – called a life interest – she gets a legal interest in the estate. She therefore gets the benefit of the estate until she dies, then it gets distributed pursuant to your wishes upon her death.”
You can also transfer assets while you are still alive, although various capital gains tax and stamp duty taxes may apply.
You can also sign an Agreement by which the husband and wife each release any claim they have against the estate of the other. This requires the consent of the court.
There are other provisions such as Mutual Wills and Testamentary Trusts, but these include complex provisions and it would be essential to get expert legal advice before embarking on this.
“Families need to get expert legal advice to weigh up what is best for them. This is especially so in the case of blended families with children from different parents, which can result in very complex arrangements,” Mr Crowther said.
“A willmaker has an obligation to ensure, as far as possible, the spouse has a roof over their head and enough capital for unforeseen contingencies.”