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  • Writer's pictureRRPG 2023

What happens to the plan for my children if I pass away and my spouse remarries?

Updated: Jun 26

By Bill Root

What happens to your plan for your children if you pass away and your spouse remarries? Will your children still receive the assets and benefits you planned for them to receive? Can you prepare for and guarantee the result?


James, a surgeon at a local hospital, was 50 years old when his wife of 25 years, Mary, passed away. They had three children: Alice, age 23 and twins Nancy and Sherry, age 21. Their Estate Plan can be described as the “All American” plan; each spouse leaves everything to the other at death and equally to their three children after both of them pass away. James inherited all of Mary’s interest in their property according to plan.

Three years after the death of his wife, James married Marie, who had two children of her own from a previous marriage: Ted, age 26, and Susan, age 24. James and Marie were married for fifteen years when he passed away from a sudden heart attack. Following the advice of their Advisors, for income tax purposes as part of their estate plan, James and Marie designated each other as the beneficiary of each of their retirement/IRA plans and all 5 children as the contingent beneficiaries after the death of the survivor of them. Marie inherited James’ retirement accounts and exercised her right as a surviving spouse to “roll” his IRA account into hers. Several years after James died, Marie lost touch with James’ children. They visited occasionally but as the years passed, she did not communicate with them that often. Since Marie felt that her biological children were more deserving of her IRA account at her death, she changed the beneficiary designations to her two children, Ted and Susan.


A number of clients I meet with initially own their property jointly with rights of survivorship in order to avoid probate at the death of one of them. The problem with this type of ownership is that the surviving spouse owns the entire asset or property and can give it away or leave it at death to whomever he or she wants without restriction.


Nate and Megan were married for 15 years when Megan passed away, leaving Nate and their two children, Charlie and Ava, ages 12 and 10. Nate and Megan had created a revocable living trust as part of their estate plan, and named the trust as the beneficiary of a $1,000,000 term life insurance policy on Megan’s life. When Megan died, the insurance proceeds were paid to the living trust which provided for Nate and the children, but also contained language requiring Nate to enter into a prenuptial agreement with a new spouse, should he remarry, to prevent a subsequent beneficiary change. That way, Nate can to continue to benefit from the trust he created with Megan and guarantee that Charlie and Ava would inherit the remaining trust assets at Nate’s death.

Example 2 describes just one of a number of solutions to this issue. There are several other planning strategies that we can implement to enable children to properly inherit assets that were intended for them out of the love, affection and intentions of a deceased parent.


What happens to the plan for my children if I pass away and my spouse remarries?

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