A Guide to Estate Planning for Second Marriages

A Guide to Estate Planning for Second Marriages – SmartAsset

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Getting married for a second time following a divorce or the death of your first spouse can feel like a fresh start. But it’s important to consider how joining your life with someone else’s may impact your financial plan, including how you manage your estate. What is fair in a second marriage and estate planning? It can be a difficult question to answer, especially when you or your new spouse are bringing children into the marriage or you plan to have children together at some point. Understanding some of the key financial issues surrounding a second marriage can help with reshaping your estate plan. So can consulting a financial advisor, especially one experienced in estate planning for second marriages.

Key Estate Planning Considerations for Second Marriages

Remarriage can bring up a number of important questions for estate planning. Both spouses should be aware of what the central issues are when updating individual estate plans or creating a new joint one.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask for estate planning in a second marriage:

  • What assets will be left to each of your children?
  • Do you plan to have additional children together and if so, what assets will be preserved for them?
  • Which assets will you each continue to hold individually?
  • Are there any assets that will be retitled in both of your names, such as a first home, vacation home or bank accounts?
  • Are either of you bringing any debts into the marriage or will you incur new debts after the marriage?
  • Do each of you have a will in place that needs to be updated?
  • Or will you establish a new joint will?
  • Besides a will, what other estate planning tools may be necessary, i.e. a trust, advance healthcare directive or power of attorney?
  • Will you continue working with your current financial advisors or choose a new advisor to help you manage your financial plan together?

Asking these kinds of questions can help you each get a sense of the other’s perspective on estate planning. Ideally, you should be having these types of discussions before the marriage takes place to minimize potential conflicts later. This can also help you decide if a prenuptial agreement may be necessary to protect your individual financial interests. But if you’ve already remarried, it may be a good idea to have this discussion sooner, rather than later.

At the same time, it can also help to complete an inventory of your assets and liabilities so you both know what you’re bringing into the marriage. This can help with managing the distribution side of your estate plan later as well as planning for how any debts may need to be handled should one of you pass away.

Estate Planning for Second Marriages With Children

Having kids can add a wrinkle to your estate planning efforts when you’re getting remarried. For example, you may wish to leave certain assets to your children while your new spouse may want your assets to be equally distributed among his or her children as well as yours. Or there may be questions over who would assume control over assets on behalf of minor children should one of you die.

When there are children in the picture, it’s important to consider any provisions you’ve already made for them in a will or trust and how that might affect any assets your spouse stands to inherit. You may need to update your will or set up a separate marital trust, for example, to ensure that your spouse receives the share of your assets you wish them to have while still preserving your children’s inheritance. Provisions may also need to be made for any children you plan to have if you’re still relatively young when a second marriage occurs.

It’s important to consider the age of your children when deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning. If you have adult children, for example, it could make sense to gift some of their inheritance to them during your lifetime. But if you have minor children, you and your new spouse would need to decide who should be in charge of managing their inheritance on their behalf if one of you dies prematurely.

Check Beneficiary Designations

Assets that already have a named beneficiary may need to be updated if you’re remarrying. For example, if you named your previous spouse as beneficiary to your 401(k), individual retirement account or life insurance policy, you’d likely want to change the beneficiary to your new spouse or to a trust you’ve set up so that your former spouse can’t collect on those assets.

You should also consider other assets, such as bank accounts or real estate, should be titled. Adding your new spouse to your home as a joint tenant with right of survivorship may seem like the right move for keeping things simple in your estate plan. But doing so means that if something happens to you, your spouse will automatically assume full ownership of the home. They could then do with it as they wish, regardless of what you might have specified in a will or trust.

Look for Gaps in Your Estate Plan

When deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning, consider where the gaps might exist that could leave your assets in jeopardy. Not having a will, for example, could be problematic if you pass away. Without a will, your state’s inheritance laws would be applied – not your wishes. That means your assets may not go to your children or other heirs as you’d like them to.

A trust can also be a useful tool in estate planning for passing on assets to your spouse or children as well as managing estate and inheritance taxes. If either of you are bringing considerable assets into a second marriage or you want to minimize the potential for conflicts over asset distribution later, setting up one or more trusts could be a good idea. Talking to an estate planning attorney can help you decide whether a trust is necessary and if so, which type of trust to set up.

Also, consider whether you have sufficient life insurance coverage to provide for the surviving spouse and any children associated with the marriage. Both spouses in a second marriage may need to have life insurance coverage, particularly if one person is the primary breadwinner while the other is the primary caregiver for children. Checking your existing life insurance policies and talking to your insurance agent can help you determine whether what you have is enough or if more coverage is necessary.

Finally, think about what you may need in terms of end-of-life planning. Long-term care insurance, for instance, can help pay for nursing home costs so that your spouse or either of your children aren’t left in the lurch financially. An advance healthcare directive and a power of attorney can ensure that your wishes are carried out in end-of-life situations where you’re unable to make financial or medical care decisions on your own behalf.

The Bottom Line

Deciding what’s fair in a second marriage and estate planning can be tricky and it’s important to get the conversation started early. Understanding what the biggest challenges of estate planning in a second marriage are can help you work together to shape a plan that you can both be satisfied with. And if you have adult children, it’s important to keep them in the loop so they understand how a second marriage may impact their inheritance.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about the implications of a second marriage and what it might mean for your portfolio. You and your spouse may choose to maintain your current advisors or find a new advisor to work with together. In either case, finding the right professional to work with doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can offer personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area, in just minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Trusts can be a useful estate planning tool for couples, including those who are getting married for a second time. A marital trust, for example, goes into effect when the first spouse dies. This can be helpful for passing assets on to a surviving spouse while minimizing estate taxes. You may want to create this type of trust, along with a second living trust set up specifically for your children, to manage assets more efficiently while also protecting them from creditors.

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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How to Avoid Paying Taxes on Inherited Property

How to Avoid Paying Taxes on Inherited Property – SmartAsset

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Inheriting a home or other property can increase the value of your estate but it can also result in tax consequences. If the property you inherit has appreciated in value since the original owner purchased it, you could be on the hook for capital gains tax should you choose to sell it. That could result in a large tax bill if there’s a sizable gap between the original purchase price and the price you’re able to sell the property for. There are some possibilities for how to avoid paying capital gains tax on inherited property which are worth considering if you’re the beneficiary of an estate or trust

Capital Gains Tax, Explained

Capital gains tax applies when an investment is sold for more than its original purchase price. Typically, you might think about capital gains tax in terms of selling stocks or other securities you hold inside your investment portfolio. So if you bought a stock for $2 per share and sold it for $5 per share, you’d owe capital gains on the $3 in profit you realized from the sale.

The IRS taxes capital gains differently, depending on how long you hold the underlying asset. The short-term capital gains tax rate applies to investments or assets you hold for less than one year. The long-term capital gains tax rate applies to investments or assets you hold longer than one year.

Between the two, the long-term capital gains tax rate is more favorable. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, whereas long-term capital gains are taxed at 0%, 15% or 20% tax rates, based on your filing status and taxable income for the year. So if you’re in a higher tax bracket, it typically makes more sense to hold investments longer to minimize the amount of capital gains tax you owe.

Capital Gains Tax Rules for Inherited Property

When inheriting property, such as a home or other real estate, the capital gains tax kicks in if you sell that asset at a higher price point than the person you inherited it from paid for it. Likewise, it’s possible to claim a capital loss deduction if you end up selling the property at a loss.

The difference with inherited property, however, is that the IRS allows you to use what’s known as a stepped-up basis for calculating capital gains tax liability. The step-up cost basis represents the value of the home when you inherit it versus its original purchase price.

For example, say your parents bought a home for $100,000 that’s worth $400,000 by the time you inherit it. Under ordinary capital gains tax rules, you’d owe tax on the $300,000 difference between what your parents paid for it and its current value.

That could result in a huge tax bill for you, which is why the IRS allows you to use the stepped-up basis instead. Assume that you don’t sell the home right away, for instance. You hold on to the property for two years, at which time you sell it for $450,000. Taking the step-up basis of $400,000 into account, you’d only pay capital gains on tax on the $50,000 in appreciation value.

That wouldn’t allow you to completely avoid paying capital gains taxes on inherited property, but using the step-up cost basis can reduce the amount of capital gains tax you’d owe.

How to Avoid Paying Capital Gains Tax On Inherited Property

If you stand to inherit property and you want to avoid paying taxes on it, there are three possible options for minimizing or eliminating capital gains tax altogether. The first is to simply sell the property as soon as you inherit it. By selling it right away, you aren’t leaving any room for the property to appreciate in value any further. So if you inherit your parents’ home and it’s worth $250,000, selling it right away could help you avoid capital gains tax if it’s still only worth $250,000 at the time of the sale.

That may not be ideal, however, if it was your parents’ wish or your desire to keep the home in the family. In that scenario, there’s a second option you can consider.

Instead of selling the home right away, you could move into it and make it your primary residence. You could then sell the home two years later, potentially excluding some or all of the capital gains from the sale.

The IRS allows single filers to exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains from the sale of a home, increasing that to $500,000 for married couples filing a joint return. The key is that you have to live in the home for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. So if you can envision yourself living in your parents’ home for at least two years, this is another way you might be able to avoid paying capital gains tax on the property.

A third option is to not sell the property and rent it out instead of living in it. This can be a little tricky, however, since there are still tax rules you have to observe. An inherited home that’s treated as an investment property for tax purposes would still be subject to capital gains tax if you decide to sell it. But you could defer paying those taxes if you complete a 1031 exchange to purchase another investment property to replace the one you’re selling.

Disclaiming an Inheritance to Avoid Capital Gains Tax

There’s one more possibility for how to avoid paying capital gains tax on inherited property. That’s simply choosing not to inherit it at all.

This is called disclaiming an inheritance and it’s something you can choose to do if you’d prefer not to get entangled in tax issues related to someone else’s estate. The downside, of course, is that once you formally disclaim an inheritance, you can’t go back and change your mind. Whatever property you forfeited would be passed on to the next person in line to inherit.

The Bottom Line

Inheriting property can trigger capital gains tax if you choose to sell it. And there are other taxes you may need to consider, such as state inheritance taxes. If the inherited property is a residence consider living in it for a few years before selling it. Alternatively, consider renting it. Talking to an estate planning attorney or a tax professional may be helpful if you stand to inherit assets from your parents or anyone else and you’re worried about owing Uncle Sam.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about what you should be including in your own estate plan. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Property taxes in America are collected by local governments as well as the federal government. The money collected is generally used to support community safety, schools, infrastructure and other public projects. A property tax calculator can help you better understand the average cost of property taxes in your state and county.

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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