After 25 years of being divorced, I have accepted a proposal to remarry. For many people, this is a reality.
The first time I was married, my “wasband” and I were both in our early 20s. We both had the same level of assets which was very little money and quite a bit of student loans. My former husband entered our married with a daughter who did not live with us. We had very little to protect.
Now I have a different reality. My soon-to-be spouse and I both have children who are in their 30s. With that in mind, we don’t have to plan for guardianship if one of us were to pass. If there are minor children living with the biological parent and the biological parent was to pass away, the step-parent has no legal relationship to the child.
Often adult children are protective of the assets of the parents and are concerned about their inheritance. They may perceive the relationship as a threat to their parent’s safety or their legacy and seek to protect. Change is almost always viewed as a loss.
At the Griffin Firm, we have the opportunity to counsel families on how to peacefully bring blended families together. Often the conversation focuses around if there are disparities between the asset level of the families coming together. If one person has much more than the other the family with more assets is suspicious. The family with less may have a vulture mentality and look to gain when the partner with plenty passes away.
A prenuptial agreement and a complete estate plan are good tools to determine what are each party’s intentions.
My soon-to-be spouse and I both own homes that have mortgages. I was single when I bought my house. My fiancé, who has been divorced for years, bought his home when he was married. Although he retained the home and there was clarity in the divorce decree that his ex-wife was to vacate the house, the divorce decree was silent on who would own the property. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. We have found properties that have not been retitled after divorce. If the divorce decree does not specify the distribution and the parties are not able to agree, a modification of the divorce decree may be required.
The fact that we both have mortgages on our homes creates the possibility of commingling assets to make our homes marital property although purchased prior to marriage. Maryland is not a community property state. A community property state allows for the spouses to receive half of all property acquired after the marriage. Maryland is an equitable property state allowing for fair distribution of the assets of the marriage.
Bringing two previously married people together may complicate some end-of-life decisions. Often previously married people purchase funeral and internment plans. In many cases, spouses buy joint cemetery plots. The couple may have to decide that the plot is to be sold or the new spouse can be laid to rest on the left side of their spouse while the predeceased spouse is laid to rest on the right side.
The joining of two families is difficult but joyful. The key to minimizing the confusion is having significant and focused conversation.