When it comes to estate planning, families are complicated. It's not always so simple as Mom and Dad passing away pleasantly in their 90s and leaving the money to their responsible adult children. We all wish things could go so smoothly, but they often don't. And that can lead to problems.
One potential problem happens when someone gets married again, either after a divorce or after the original spouse passes away, and the new spouse is far younger.
How it works
For example, imagine that a man is 60 years old when he goes through a gray divorce. He then marries a woman who is 40 years old -- two decades his junior.
When he creates his estate plan, he wants to make sure that his new wife has everything she needs while she is alive. He sets up trusts and other tools that make sure property does go to his children, but he makes it so that they cannot inherit anything until his wife -- the surviving spouse in this second marriage -- passes away.
While that makes sense to him, the reality is that his children are only a few years younger than his new wife. They may have to wait a long time for her to pass away so that they can collect their inheritance, and that wait can fill them with resentment. They know that they would have obtained their money a lot sooner if their father had stayed married to his first wife and they had both passed away around the same time.
You also have to take into account potential grudges that the children hold. Maybe they never liked the new, younger woman to begin with. She's not their mother and they barely consider her their father's wife. They did not feel great about their parents splitting up initially, and it just made them feel worse when he got married again. She feels like an outsider.
This means that the child already come into this situation with feelings of betrayal, resentment and anger. When it then impacts them personally by preventing them from getting their inheritance, that makes things worse. Additionally, if the new wife is then living off of their father's money, they may feel like she is wasting money that should have gone to them. Things can get ugly in a hurry once their father is out of the picture.
As you can see, estate plans with complex family dynamics have a high potential for disputes and disagreements. It is crucial for all involved to know exactly what legal options they have.