When an older Pennsylvanian – say, over age 50 – remarries, they could be entering the marriage with children who are on their own and have considerable assets, such as a home, investments or a healthy retirement account.

You know that one day, you want those children and their children to inherit what you leave behind. But, unless you put those desires on paper in the form of an estate plan, things might not work out that way.

Before you remarry, it’s crucial to sit down with your new spouse to discuss your plans for the funds, property and family heirlooms you will bring into the marriage. And then, when you agree, you both should execute an estate plan.

If you pass away and don’t have a will, the court will decide how to divide your estate. And it could turn into a battle between your new spouse and your kids.

Some things to remember as you remarry:

  1. Switch your account beneficiaries on things such as your bank accounts and life insurance. If you haven’t updated that since your divorce, your former spouse might still be listed and stands to inherit your funds. If you want your children to inherit those assets, list them as the beneficiaries. Note: Under 401(k) rules, your current spouse must be the beneficiary unless they opt out in writing.
  2. If your spouse moves into a home you own, you can leave it to your children. If you and your new spouse buy a home together, and you want your children to inherit your share, the deed must list “tenancy in common.” Your interest in the house is transferred to the kids instead of your spouse.
  3. Be specific in your will if you want your children to inherit certain items. If you don’t, your spouse can attempt to claim ownership, or your children can fight about it themselves. “I leave my one-carat diamond engagement ring to my son, John, and my two-carat ruby ring to my daughter, Jane” leaves it clear which child you want to have which piece of jewelry.

Visiting an estate planning attorney to get the paperwork in order before saying “I do” will give you peace of mind in your new marriage.