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Estate planning and family law are often closely intertwined. This is especially true when people have children, divorce and remarry — creating complex blended families in the process. As the branches on a family tree continue to grow and overlap, the estate planning needs of that family are likely to follow suit and become increasingly nuanced.

A prenuptial agreement is one tool that spouses often use to clarify their financial rights and responsibilities toward each other. A prenup can be particularly useful in marriages in which one or both spouses have already had children or acquired substantial assets prior to the marriage.

Generally speaking a prenuptial agreement focuses on who will get what in the event of divorce. However, it can also affect a surviving spouse’s rights in the event that the other spouse dies  – a circumstance that is generally covered by a person’s estate plan.

Unfortunately, when a prenup does come into play after a spouse’s death, it can have unintended consequences. This is because a prenup and an estate plan address two very different situations — divorce and death. Therefore, each must be carefully tailored to fit the specific circumstances without unintentionally affecting the other.

In order to ensure that your family is provided for according to your wishes in the event of your death, be sure to let your estate planning lawyer know if you have a prenuptial agreement. He or she can work with you to make sure your intentions are clearly communicated in your estate plan and address any potential complications created by your prenup.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Creating an Estate Plan Around a Prenup,” Alex Coppola, July 11, 2014