Inheritance turns complicated after a second marriage


Inheritance issues become more complicated when it comes to second marriages or families. As discussed previously in Family Money, where a valid will exists a spouse is legally entitled to at least half the estate where there are no children and one-third when there are children even if the deceased spouse's will specifies otherwise.

While this division is seldom contentious in first marriages Ms M, a widower from Donegal, tells Family Money she is concerned for her children's inheritance should she remarry.

Ms M's existing will divides her estate equally between her two adult children. "Were I to marry again and to predecease my new husband, under law, as I understand it, he would be entitled to one third of my estate and the use of the family home for his lifetime," she writes.

KPMG's director of personal financial services, Ms Ann Williams, says this is not completely accurate. "He would be entitled to one-third of her estate but use of the family home is not automatic but may be specified as part of his one-third," she said.

Ms M says she is uncomfortable with the legal rights of a second husband to the estate. "My deceased husband worked very hard to provide for me and our family and I would think it unfair that anyone else would be entitled to his savings. In particular our house is worth a great deal."

When making her new will, Ms M expressed her trepidation and "asked if it would be possible for a new husband to sign a renunciation to any share of my estate. I was told that this had been done once but had been declared null (or something like that) by the courts. Is this really correct?"

Ms M would like to know where she stands legally.

Pre-nuptial arrangements are an area that has not been tried and tested in the Republic, says Ms Williams. "If conditions were attached before they were married the court may say there was duress involved and it was not a freely given renunciation," she said

If our reader remarries and dies before her husband without leaving a valid will, the rules of the Succession Act will apply. The surviving spouse receives two-thirds of her estate and the rest is divided among her children and any joint children.