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Second Marriages & Estate Planning

Law Office of Rodney Gould Sept. 30, 2022

According to a 2022 survey, 40% of Americans say that the main reason they don’t have a will is because they haven’t gotten around to it. Not having a will can lead to serious problems, especially if you have been married twice. 
Who will inherit from your estate becomes even more complicated if you and your new spouse both already have children. If you do not establish your wishes in your estate plan, your assets may end up going to a child who you don’t have a strong relationship with rather than your own children.  

An experienced California estate planning attorney can help you understand what needs to be established in your estate plan and can make your wishes legally enforceable. Rodney Gould has been practicing law for over thirty years, and he brings a compassionate, efficient approach to all his clients’ legal matters. The Law Office of Rodney Gould proudly represents clients in Los Angeles, California, as well as Sherman Oaks, Studio City, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. 

Rights of a Surviving Spouse 

Your surviving spouse may have rights after your passing. Jointly held assets will go to the surviving spouse, automatically.  

By law in California, any gifts to ex-spouses in a will are automatically voided. In other words, if you divorce and forget to rewrite your will, the goodies left to the ex-spouse won't be given.

If you designated your ex-spouse as the beneficiary of your 401(k) or other accounts, and you did not update your beneficiary, then your ex-spouse may inherit your retirement rather than your surviving spouse.  

What to Consider When Creating an Estate Plan in a Second Marriage 

Keep these considerations in mind as you draft your new estate plan.  

Prenuptial Agreement 

A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into before marriage that states how assets and debts will be divided in the case of divorce. If you have a prenuptial agreement with your second spouse, you may want to consider including the same provisions – or changing them – in your estate plan.  

Inheritance of the Children 

When it comes to how your children, and your spouse’s children, will inherit from your estate, there are plenty of difficult questions that may arise. For example, if you were the primary person who paid for the home, should the proceeds from the sale of the home be divided amongst your spouse’s children after you and your spouse pass away – or should the proceeds go to your children? Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn more about how to establish your will so that your wishes will be carried out.  


As mentioned above, you may have already designated the beneficiary for your important accounts, such as your 401(k), your individual retirement account, and your life insurance policy. It’s important to check that you have updated the beneficiary listed on your accounts. Establishing beneficiaries in a second marriage must be spelled out in your estate plan. 

Long-Term Care Costs 

While it may be difficult to think about, it is important to make a provision in your estate plan for how long-term care costs, such as how assisted living or nursing home care costs will be covered. Long-term care costs should be covered for any children with special needs as well. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

To be confident that your estate plan accurately reflects your wishes, watch out for these common estate planning mistakes:  

  • Not updating your will 

  • Not having a will at all 

  • Not consulting with an attorney 

Making decisions about who will inherit which assets from your estate can be a complicated and emotional process. Unfortunately, it can be easy to make mistakes. Verifying that your wishes will be legally enforceable upon your passing is also difficult to do on your own. 

Work With an Experienced Attorney 

After a second marriage, the law when it comes to your assets can be challenging to understand. Simplify the process by working with an experienced estate planning attorney. Rodney Gould can help you navigate this process and establish an estate plan that takes care of your family. The Law Office of Rodney Gould is proud to represent clients in Los Angeles, California, as well as Sherman Oaks, Studio City, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Contact the firm today to schedule a free consultation.