Second marriages, particularly among people in their later years, are becoming more and more common in New Jersey. As couples embark on a happy period in their later years they are endeavoring to ensure that second spouses are provided for in estate planning should one predecease the other. However, one very important aspect is often overlooked.

Couples are very careful to include each other in their wills thinking that by so doing they are providing for each other in the event of one’s death. One area that gets overlooked is that beneficiaries specified in such assets as retirement accounts and insurance policies supersede what is specified in a will. This can have the unfortunate effect of costing the surviving spouse a significant amount of time and money.

In one case, a man had a daughter from a previous marriage. They had become estranged and he rewrote his will to leave everything to his second wife. Upon his death, she was surprised to find that the beneficiary information on his retirement account was still in his daughter’s name. Beneficiary information supersedes bequests specified in a will. The money in the retirement account had been intended to help pay bills and maintain the home she had shared with her second husband.

There are many similar scenarios that could unintentionally occur in the event of the death of a second spouse. Revising a will is a good first step to protecting the interests of a new spouse, but an experienced estate planning attorney in New Jersey can look at the big picture. A review of all beneficiary accounts and other documents that may supersede what is specified only in a will can prevent a lot of unintended heartache.