Second Marriage Planning

In second marriage planning, a co-trustee is sometimes recommended on the death of the first spouse. While both spouses are living and competent they run their trust or trusts together. But when one spouse dies, what prevents the other spouse from diverting all of the assets to their own children? Nothing at all, if they alone are in charge. While most people are honorable, and many are certain their spouse would never do such a thing, strange things often happen later in life. A spouse may become forgetful, delusional or senile or may be influenced by other parties. Not only that, but the children of the deceased spouse tend to feel very insecure when they find out their stepparent is in charge of all of the couple’s assets.

If you choose one of the deceased spouse’s children to act as co-trustee with the surviving spouse there is a conflict that exists whereby the stepchild may be reluctant to spend assets for the surviving spouse, because whatever is spent on that spouse comes out of the child’s inheritance. Then what if stepparent gets remarried? How will the stepchild trustee react to that event? What if it turns out the stepchild liked the stepparent when his parent was living, but not so much afterwards?

Here is where the lawyer as co-trustee may provide an ideal solution. When one parent dies, the lawyer steps in as co-trustee with the surviving spouse. The lawyer helps the stepparent to invest for their own benefit as well as making sure the principal grows to offset inflation, for the benefit of the deceased spouse’s heirs.

The stepparent in this case takes care of all their business privately with their lawyer. The trusts cannot be raided. These protections may also be extended for IRA and 401(k) money passing to the spouse through the use of the “IRA Contract”. Surviving spouse agrees ahead of time that they will make an irrevocable designation of the deceased spouse’s children as beneficiaries when the IRA is left to the surviving spouse, and further agrees that any withdrawals in excess of the required minimum distribution (RMD) may only be made on consent of the lawyer.

When the trust terms are read the deceased spouse’s children are relieved by the protection that has been set up for them, have no concern about the stepparent’s having sole control of the assets and the relationship between them may continue to grow and flourish.

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