They may be getting along well now, but there’s no telling what will happen after your death or if there is some other falling out down the road. Probate dockets are full of cases that could be said to have begun with these exact facts, but somehow fell apart. Estate planning puts you in charge and allows you to make sure everyone that’s important to you – your new spouse and your children from a prior marriage – understands your wishes. This greatly reduces the risk of conflict and, in some cases, can completely eliminate conflict.
Joint tenancy does avoid probate and is often better than no planning. However, if you and your spouse were to die at the same time then the joint tenancy is “broken” and your respective halves would have to go through probate. Additionally, if your new spouse survives you, then he or she owns all of the property that was jointly owned. Even if the two of you agreed that your children from a prior marriage should be supported or left an inheritance, your new spouse owns the property and can do whatever he or she wants with the property. This could completely disinherit your children from a prior marriage.
Even if none of your children are divorced now, the statistics show that many couples will experience a divorce. Estate planning reduces the risk that your death could be a financial windfall for a soon-to-be-ex-spouse, which can happen if you die at the “wrong” time. It’s wise to hope for the best but plan for the worst, so that your family can be fully protected.
Fact: The intersection of prenups and estate planning is complex, so every case will vary. But, in many cases there are strategies that can be used to help you provide for your new spouse while also ensuring protection for your children. The worst thing you can do is assume that there’s nothing that can be done.