The SafeEstates Blog

Honest Conversations About Marriage

My parents would have celebrated 69 years of marriage on August 9.  They had a lot of honest conversations along the way to keep their relationship on track.  Their love and commitment to each other was a great blessing to our family.  My Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn had the same love and commitment until her death after more than 20 years of marriage.  Frank’s story did not end there.  He later married a widow, and Frank and Aunt Carolyn shared the same love and commitment for almost 40 years of marriage until his death.  Their blended family of 8 children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren remains a family.

I recently helped a widow negotiate a prenuptial agreement as part of her estate planning.  She was getting married (on August 9) and could not have been a more excited bride-to-be.  She was concerned about building a blended family from her adult children and her new husband’s adult children.  Their honest conversations as they prepared for marriage will help them have a long and happy life together.

One reason I encourage prenuptial and postnuptial agreements is the elective share.  In Tennessee, a surviving spouse has a right to take a percentage of the net estate instead of what is provided in the decedent’s will.  The percentage is based on the length of the marriage, up to 40% of the net estate.  So if a married person writes a will leaving all of the estate to children from a previous marriage, the surviving spouse can elect to take 40% of it.  A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can prevent this by waiving the elective share.  Keep in mind, a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement requires full financial disclosure and independent legal advice, so don’t try to do this on your own.  If you or someone you know is contemplating marriage or is in a second marriage, contact my office to consult with me about the elective share and what it means to blended families.