Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are Hollywood’s favorite couple…again. They announced their re-engagement almost 20 years after their first one faded. The pair, formerly known as “Bennifer,” may be a bit more glamorous than other couples, but like everyone else, they will have to come down to earth to figure out the more prosaic issues of life, from prenuptial agreements. Previously married couples may also have children, like Affleck and Lopez.
Whether you and your betrothed are stars or just starry-eyed, here are some essential issues to iron out with an estate planning attorney and financial planner before saying “I do.”
What About My Children?
It is one of the most complicated questions facing new spouses with children from previous relationships. Affleck has two daughters and a son with his former wife, actress Jennifer Garner. Lopez has a son and a daughter with singer Marc Anthony, one of her two former husbands. Along with legal issues of custody and visitation, they will need to work out financial issues like child support and inheritance. Here are some fast facts everyone should know (or speak to an attorney to figure out):
- Getting remarried certainly DOES affect your current child support and alimony payments.
- Having a new spouse move into your primary residence (your homestead) gives them certain rights if you pass away (even if you owned the home in your name before you even met them.) These certain rights include a life estate, which is the right to live in the home for the duration of their life, as well as an elective share (approximately 30% of your estate), and other considerations that an estate planning attorney will explain.
- You must make sure to update your estate planning documents, so you do not cut any of the children out of their rightful inheritance, including your own future children.
- A former spouse listed on your assets or as a beneficiary on your financial accounts can cause problems. For ex., what if you predecease your new spouse before you have updated your financial documents, so your former spouse gets everything, and your new family gets nothing? Even if you have a Last Will and Testament to stipulate who gets your property after you pass away, it could still be delayed in the excruciating court process known as probate while the spouses of past and present duke it out.
Do You Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
The answer is probably a firm yes. A “prenup” is not just for rich and famous couples like Affleck and Lopez. If you have any assets now or expect to acquire some during your marriage, it is wise to determine what will happen to them if the relationship fails. If you have been through a divorce, you may know how much heartache a financial battle can add to an unhappy situation. Smart couples no longer object to a prenup because “we know our love will last forever.” Things change, even your perfect love, and it is wise to be prepared. You may even focus more happily on romance when the practical issues are resolved from the start. Beware that a prenuptial agreement is best prepared well in advance of the wedding. Last minute prenups are subject to scrutiny if one spouse insists they were pressured into signing a prenup days before the wedding.
These are just some of the issues that should be on every couple’s pre-wedding TO-DO list. Speak to an estate planning attorney and family law attorney WELL BEFORE THE WEDDING so you can stop worrying and tend to the more enjoyable tasks of wedding planning.