Without careful estate planning and periodic reviews of that plan, there could be unforeseen legal consequences when a widow or widower remarries leaving intended heirs disenfranchised and bitter. After all, there’s no title to a family heirloom like grandpa's pipe collection. A parent can say that specific items should go to a particular child, but its proving that they actually belonged to the parent rather than a new spouse that's the difficulty.
If your parent dies before the new spouse, chances are that the tangible personal property will not go to your side of the family. That’s why I encourage my clients to sign a prenuptial agreement. These agreements are particularly useful when the marriage creates a blended family of adult children. A prenup is no longer a requirement of just the ‘Brangelina-type’ union; it's especially important if assets include 401K or other ESOP retirement plans because without the ability to put the proper beneficiary designation paperwork in place, these assets might well go to your new spouse instead of your children or grandchildren as you’d planned.
Be especially aware of how state laws can impact inheritances. There are some states that allow the surviving spouse to continue living in their deceased spouse's home. If the deceased had children by a prior marriage, they could be cooling their heels for some time before they receive their inheritance. This can create a dicey situation when most of the deceased client's wealth is tied up in the home.
Likewise, when folks move from one state to another, especially when it’s a second or third marriage, they should talk with a qualified estate planning attorney to understand what rights that spouse has attained because of the move. There could be surprises. For example, in Oklahoma the surviving spouse has a right to the family bible.
Reference: On Wall Street (Sept. 14, 2016) “Estate planning mishaps: How even the family bible is at stake”