The Moneyist: My fiancé is 14 years older and has three kids—will I share his estate if he dies?

Dear Moneyist,

I’m a 34-year-old woman living in West Palm Beach, Fla. I’m engaged to a divorced 48-year-old father of three. There is a 14-year difference between my fiancé and I. He has full-time custody of his three children from a previous marriage. We are planning on getting married soon and buying a home. What are the laws on inheritance if something happens to my fiancé and I am left alone with his three children?

Also see: My wife and I want to have a second child — is this a good time to buy a new house?

Will I be forced to sell the home that my future husband and I have worked for and split the earnings with his children? Will I be forced to split the money in our bank account and give it to his three children? Will you please explain the law to me? I know that if something were to happen to him and he had debt I would have to pay off his debts since we are legally bound through marriage.

These are things that I have to consider given the age difference and that we have no children together.

The fiancée

Dear Fiancée,

Unless your fiancé makes a will and you discuss this will before you get married, along with any requests either of you may have for a prenuptial agreement, state law will dictate who gets what should your fiancé predecease you. Although this is a macabre question, it’s not an uncommon one.

People have all sorts of questions about what might happen. One woman asked if she could disinherit her stepchildren if her husband dies. Another asked the opposite question to yours: She wondered who would be responsible for her stepchildren’s student loans if they died.

You are not powerless. If you are buying a home together, and investing equal amounts, you should have “the conversation” about what would happen should one of you predeceases the other. Ask if his ex-wife is on his life insurance as part of their divorce decree. (Sorry to add to your worries.)

Don’t miss: I paid my boyfriend’s rent and bills to improve his credit score — then he bought a house without telling me

You need to focus on your preexisting commitments too. In 2013 in Hillman vs. Maretta, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a 66-year-old man’s ex-wife (rather than his widow) as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy worth over $124,000. Divorce court trumps wills made after a second marriage.

So if he dies without a will in Florida? You would inherit half of his estate and his two children would inherit the other half. As a co-owner of your home, it would not be subject to intestate succession laws. In that case, you would inherit your late husband’s share of the property if he predeceased you.

You need to go into this marriage feeling empowered and happy. Questions beginning with, “Will I be forced…” give me pause for concern about your willingness or, perhaps, readiness to start a new life with a man who has three children. They will require emotional as well as financial support.

Recommended: After my father died, my brother has been pressuring me to lend him money

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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