How do we preserve my deceased father's estate when my mother remarries?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My father died last year, leaving a sizeable estate. He handled all the finances, so I took over with power of attorney to handle finances for mom. My mother is now already contemplating remarriage. A pre-nup has been discussed. What needs to be included to preserve the estate for my sister and myself as my father intended?

Expert Answer

Liza Hanks is the founder and owner of FamilyWorks Estate Planning, a law firm with offices in Campbell and Los Altos, California, and the author of The Busy Family's Guide to Estate Planning (Nolo, 2007).

It depends on what your parents' estate plan says about who controls the property that your father left behind. If he left it all to your mother, then what she does with it is her business, and not yours.

And if you are your mother's financial agent, acting under a power of attorney that she signed, it's your job to carry out her wishes--and you have no real say in what she does with her money and property.

If, however, your parents' estate plan left your father's share of the estate to your mother in trust, which is a common estate plan for married couples, especially those with sizable estates, then it's probable that your father's assets are already slated to go to you and your siblings when your mother dies.