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Protect an inheritance with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

Divorce can be a major obstacle in an inheritance landing into the right hands. A mother or father must protect an inheritance for their children when heading into a second marriage. Some estate planning experts suggest using a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in order to accomplish that.

Unless a written agreement is in place, an inheritance can be picked apart. For instance, if a man brought a son from a previous marriage into a new marriage, he would need to put in writing his plan to reserve the inheritance for his son. If he does not, his new wife could decide what to do with it, and even take money out of it.

While it might not be considered healthy to mistrust a new spouse like this, it is vital to protect an inheritance in this case. There are many scenarios in which a legal representative might act on behalf of a surviving spouse. While you and your new spouse might have struck a personal agreement, without it being written down, no one is obligated to follow along the lines of that agreement. This could happen if a surviving spouse became disables or incapacitated.

The same concept would apply for a retirement account, like an IRA. If a father wanted his child from a previous marriage to inherit a retirement account, he would have to draft up a waiver with his current spouse to make it happen. This is important and can sometimes grow into an issue, as retirement accounts can often be the largest asset in a marriage.

Considering the valuable assets at stake, drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement appears to be entirely worth the time and effort. Divorce can complicate estate planning in general. Using a qualified estate planning attorney or professional can help unravel some of this complexity.

Source: Business Lexington, "Protecting your child's inheritance in a second marriage," Kevin Henry and Doug Martin, Jan. 3, 2013

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