I Do, Again – Avoiding Financial Problems in Your Second Marriage

Brett Schatto

Getting married for the second time can be a celebration of hope and love rekindled, but don’t let that blind you from the elephant in the room, writes Brett Schatto.

Divorces are usually messy, painful affairs and they don’t get easier with practice. Humans though can be suckers for punishment. 30% of first-time marriages end in divorce, and that jumps to 60% for those having a second go. When relationships end it’s tempting to say that it just wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps that’s so. However, I’d wager there are a significant number of failed second marriages that could have gone the distance if certain conversations had taken place early on. Don’t ignore things that frustrate you, don’t try to forget about any uncomfortable feelings.  That is not a plan for long term relationship success.  

Lay it on the table

It’s hard enough finding love once, let alone twice. Second chances can make us feel so fortunate, yet paranoid about putting a foot wrong and ending up divorced again. Ironically, this attitude is why problems can (and do) arise. 

Second marriages are complex, particularly those that involve children from previous relationships. Financially, there are serious pitfalls that need to be negotiated. How do you provide for your new partner (and, potentially, their kids) while not disinheriting your own? How do you ensure expectations meet reality for all parties concerned? More specifically:

  • How old are your children compared to theirs?
  • Are assets in joint names, tenants in common or individual? How would these assets pass on if you or your partner died?
  • Have you changed old nominations on your super funds and insurance policies or would your ex-spouse get the proceeds?
  • If you die first, could your partner (who receives your inheritance) change their will and cut your kids out of the proceeds that you promised to share fairly among all kids in the new, blended family?
  • Will your new spouse settle down again with another person after you die, living in your house for another 40 years while your kids wait for their inheritance? What if their new partner also has children and they all decide to make a claim on the house that was once yours? (Let’s not even consider that your ex-spouse [or children] might hire a lawyer to contest your estate and throw everyone out!)

I get it – these questions can be difficult to broach.

‘Honey, I love you so much, let’s get married. Before we do, though, I had this prenup prepared earlier. It’d be awesome if you could sign it, then we can get on with deciding on a date for the big day. I really do love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you, but if I go first my kids get everything I have. 

‘This house is in my name, so you and your kids would have to move out so my kids could sell it. Oh, and they get my super along with my life insurance payout – what’s wrong, honey? You look angry. Is it something I’ve said? Err… do you realise you have a knife in your hand?’

Not ideal. At Pride Advice, we call this the romantic kill zone. There are so many estate planning issues that can go wrong the second time around that it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

So how do we broach these difficult subjects in a manner that won’t lead to spousal homicide? Get someone else to do it.

Get the benefit of a neutral (and knowledgeable) party

Settling down for a second time should be a wonderful experience. Hopefully, we’ve learned from past mistakes and won’t let love blind us to the difficult but necessary discussions that are part of a functioning, healthy and long term relationship. 

And don’t think you can sneak your way around this by simply ‘living together’ and avoiding marriage. In the eyes of the law, there’s very little difference between a marriage and a de facto relationship. 

Wills and estate planning are complex subjects. Even if you and your partner are comfortable discussing them, you won’t necessarily know that you’ve covered everything. It’s the unknown unknowns that usually blindside people. 

We live in a world of specialists. These days, everyone is looking for a niche to make themselves necessary. Consequently, we end up being excellent at a few things and not much good at everything else. When it comes to something as emotional and impactful as money, it pays to seek the counsel of somebody who has made the financial world their niche.  

Keep in mind when planning for retirement that it’s never as good as it looks and never as bad as it seems. There are always options to explore – you just need to make them known knowns. At Pride Advice, we can help you do just that. Get in touch today.

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