Why parents who remarry need an up-to-date estate plan

If you're getting remarried and have children from a previous marriage or relationship, most family law attorneys will recommend that you put a prenuptial agreement in place before you tie the knot. This will help protect your children's financial future -- not to mention your own.

However, if you don't already have an estate plan -- at least a will -- now is the time to get one. Otherwise, you could be disinheriting your children without realizing it.

Just as people often don't like to broach the subject of a prenup, they may find it difficult to talk with a spouse-to-be about their will. They may just want to draft or change it without telling their partner. However, as one certified financial planner (CFP) notes, "A conversation about estate planning is absolutely critical in remarriages."

If you don't have a will when you die, a court will determine how your property is divided based on state law. In Texas, if a person dies "intestate" leaving a spouse and children (and/or grandchildren) who aren't related to the spouse, the surviving spouse will get half of that person's estate and the children and grandchildren will split the other half.

If you own a home (individually or with your new spouse), you should designate whom you want to inherit that home (or your share of it) when you die. This can prevent nasty, expensive court battles.

While you're drafting or modifying your estate plan, don't forget the small stuff. Sometimes, children and stepparents end up fighting over items with relatively little monetary worth but big sentimental value. If your kids feel strongly about collectibles, jewelry, photos and other items, either give those to them while you're still around or list them in your will.

Don't forget about retirement and investment accounts, life insurance policies and other assets with beneficiary designations. If you designate in your will that you want your children to have these, but your ex-spouse is still listed as the beneficiary, your ex will get the assets. As another CFP says, "No amount of estate planning can fix having the wrong beneficiary listed,"

The best course of action if you're going to remarry is to sit down with an estate planning attorney and discuss what you want for your children, your spouse-to-be and yourself if you become incapacitated. They can help you ensure that your estate plan reflects those wishes.