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Remarriage throws off children's estate expectations

The reality of estate planning is that your children are likely doing some mental planning regarding their inheritances, even if they don't technically know what you intend to leave to them.

This may sound a bit surprising, but it's just a fact of life. Your children can reasonably expect that your estate will pass to them. If it's a significant estate, that could change their lives -- so they may have developed a certain set of expectations.

If you get remarried after a divorce or the passing of a spouse, you can throw off the calculations that your children are already making. Suddenly, a new spouse enters the picture. He or she may also bring stepchildren. This can all change the way assets get used before your death, how assets are divided after you are gone and the amount of time before those assets get transferred.

For instance, perhaps you are 70 years old, living alone, with two children. You don't care about spending money and tend to live a quiet, relaxing life. Your children expect that you won't spend your estate and that they'll each get roughly 50 percent in the next decade.

If you marry someone who is 50 years old and has two children, it raises a lot of questions. Does that new spouse get your estate? If so, do the children have to wait for him or her to pass away before getting their share? It could take decades longer for that transfer. Will you leave anything to the stepchildren, reducing the biological children's share? Will your new spouse spend more money than you would have, reducing the total estate?

These types of questions can lead to a lot of conflicts, so it is important to know how to do quality estate planning for your family.

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