Everyone needs an estate plan, but people in second marriages especially need one. It is very common for us to meet with clients who are remarried and have children from a prior marriage. When this is the case, and they don’t have a proper estate plan set up, things can turn out drastically different when they die than what they imagined.
Typically, the majority of a married couple’s assets are jointly owned. When this is the case and the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the assets. When the second spouse dies —without an estate plan—the property is distributed solely to the second spouse’s heirs. In this scenario, the first spouse’s children are completely excluded because Arkansas laws do not provide for step-children. Thus, it just becomes the luck of the draw as to which spouse can live longer to determine which of the children will inherit.
A completely separate issue arises when an asset is owned solely by one spouse. When the spouse who owns the asset dies without an estate plan, Arkansas law says that the surviving spouse is only entitled to a portion of the estate, and the children of the deceased receive the rest, even if the other spouse is still living.
To ensure that all the property passes as desired at the death of the husband or wife or both, however things may happen, you need a proper estate plan. The most typical solution is to utilize a revocable living trust for one or both spouses. By setting up a trust you can ensure that your spouse is properly cared for when you die, and that your children and your spouse’s children receive the exact share that you both wanted them to receive when both spouses are gone.