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Remarriage: sharing assets and debts

When it comes to sharing assets and debts in remarriage, how "to have and to hold" can take some thought.

Type of Asset or Debt Factors to Consider
Debts incurred before remarriage
  • Keeping these debts separate protects the non-debtor spouse's separate property from creditors
Debts incurred during the marriage
  • Sharing debt only for jointly acquired property protects both spouses' separate property from creditors of the other spouse
  • Debt for property owned separately should be the liability of the owner spouse only
Property owned separately before remarriage
  • Separate assets may be used to provide for children of a previous relationship
  • Separate assets may be used to take advantage of both spouses' estate tax applicable exclusion amounts
  • Separate ownership protects each spouse from losing his or her assets to the other spouse's creditors
Home
  • Owning your home jointly as tenants by the entirety can help protect it from many potential creditors
  • Seek advice before placing a debtor spouse's name on the title to the home--there are numerous considerations
  • Consider a Homestead Declaration for additional protection
Checking account
  • Having one joint checking account to pay household expenses is convenient
  • Each spouse can contribute equally or in proportion to earnings
Investments
  • Even if you keep your investments separate, make investment decisions together
  • Consider the effect on your combined portfolios when making investment decisions; keep your overall portfolio diversified
Insurance policies
  • Prevent duplicate coverage and make sure that you have adequate coverage for your combined needs
  • Check whether it's less expensive to carry separate policies or combine both spouses under one policy
  • Check that the correct beneficiary has been named to life insurance policies