The New Triangle Drama: Remarriage, Kids, and Inheritance

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

It is rare that anyone cries in my office, but it did happen last week. A client reported between sobs that her dad had passed on a while back. Not only was she paralyzed with grief; she had also just learned that she wouldn’t get a dime out of his estate. It was all going to the twenty-years-younger woman he married three years ago. It felt, in her words, like a slap in the face. 

A sad story indeed, and more common than I think anyone would like. With an increasing number of people remarrying late in life, conflicts with children are on the rise – not just on a personal level, but financially, too. Unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), kids have very few rights in these scenarios. While it takes very little for a parent to disinherit a child, most states require that a surviving spouse receive between a third and half of the estate, at least (referred to as the elective share).

Sure, my client could make a court case out of it. Children often gain the jury’s sympathy in inheritance disputes. Unfortunately, the law is on the surviving spouse’s side.

The good news is: if you plan ahead, you can nip this ugly scenario in the bud and ensure that bereavement is the only reason your children cry at your funeral. Below are just a few ideas: 

  1. Skip the wedding altogether. Many couples who meet late in life opt to just live together, keeping assets separate and making life a lot easier for their respective children.

  2. Draft a detailed prenup. It may not be the most romantic thing to do, but it can make all the difference later on.

  3. Set up a Q-Tip trust. Q-Tip trusts are designed for this very purpose. When the parent passes on, the surviving spouse receives the income from the trust while the children hold on to the principal. Once the surviving spouse kicks the bucket, everything in the trust is paid out to the children. While Q-Tip trusts have their advantages, they can also create a lot of conflict- especially if the surviving spouse is young with a long life expectancy. Furthermore, setup costs can be substantial.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

The New Triangle Drama: Remarriage, Kids, and Inheritance

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

It is rare that anyone cries in my office, but it did happen last week. A client reported between sobs that her dad had passed on a while back. Not only was she paralyzed with grief; she had also just learned that she wouldn’t get a dime out of his estate. It was all going to the twenty-years-younger woman he married three years ago. It felt, in her words, like a slap in the face.

A sad story indeed, and more common than I think anyone would like. With an increasing number of people remarrying late in life, conflicts with children are on the rise – not just on a personal level, but financially, too. Unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), kids have very few rights in these scenarios. While it takes very little for a parent to disinherit a child, most states require that a surviving spouse receive between a third and half of the estate, at least (referred to as the elective share).

Sure, my client could make a court case out of it. Children often gain the jury’s sympathy in inheritance disputes. Unfortunately, the law is on the surviving spouse’s side.

The good news is: if you plan ahead, you can nip this ugly scenario in the bud and ensure that bereavement is the only reason your children cry at your funeral. Below are just a few ideas:

  1. Skip the wedding altogether. Many couples who meet late in life opt to just live together, keeping assets separate and making life a lot easier for their respective children.
  2. Draft a detailed prenup. It may not be the most romantic thing to do, but it can make all the difference later on.
  3. Set up a Q-Tip trust. Q-Tip trusts are designed for this very purpose. When the parent passes on, the surviving spouse receives the income from the trust while the children hold on to the principal. Once the surviving spouse kicks the bucket, everything in the trust is paid out to the children. While Q-Tip trusts have their advantages, they can also create a lot of conflict- especially if the surviving spouse is young with a long life expectancy. Furthermore, setup costs can be substantial.
Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Selecting Your Beneficiaries

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

One of my best friends is going through a divorce. Over the phone last night, she provided an endearing account of her efforts to make a clean break and start over. Apparently, she even remembered to take her ex out of her will. This reminded me of something few people know, even though it affects most of us in one way or another.

Your will has no jurisdiction over accounts with beneficiaries, such as your IRA. Translation: no one will care about the changes you made to your will five years ago, designating your entire fortune to your sister. If your ex is listed as the beneficiary on your retirement account, he may very well walk away with all your money.

Now, before you break into a cold sweat, hear the good news! Most investment firms make changing your beneficiaries easier than changing a light bulb. Many provide a printable version of the form on their website. If this is not the case with your firm, the form is probably just a phone call away. Meaning: it is definitely worth the effort to review your beneficiaries periodically – especially when you are going through a lot of changes – and make sure everything is still as you wish.

Two other things to note: first of all, it is generally unwise (and an express ticket to probate) to select a minor as your beneficiary. If you want to ensure that a minor gets a portion of or all of your money, set up a trust. Secondly, it is usually smart to have a backup beneficiary, to keep things simple in case anything were to happen to your first choice.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

What Are Living Trusts and How Do They Work?

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

During a charity dinner last night, one of the women mentioned that she and her husband are drafting a trust. The discussion then went from wills to trusts and back to wills again as the other people at the table tried to grasp the differences.

With this in mind, here’s the 411 on living trusts.

  1. The main difference between a will and a living trust is that trusts are confidential.
  2. There are two main types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Revocable trusts can be changed; irrevocable ones cannot – so you’d best be beyond sure of what you want to do before you commit to one.
  3. One may ask, then, why anyone would draft an irrevocable trust, when they could just write a revocable one? The answer is money. When you die, the assets in your irrevocable trust are not considered part of your estate, so they are not taxed.
  4. If your estate is under the estate tax exemption amount (currently $2 million, but it will be $3.5 million starting next year), you may not need a trust, but may be fine with just a will.
  5. Finally, a trust may be a good idea if you want to provide for children, disabled relatives, or others who may not be able to manage their own assets, as this duty will be transferred, seamlessly, to your elected trustee.

Everyone should have either a will or a trust. Which one is more beneficial for you will depend on your circumstances.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.