The blended family has become the most common family arrangement in America, and if you’re a member of one of these families, you know firsthand how complicated the family dynamics can get. When it comes to estate planning, it can be a challenge to make sure you’ve protected everyone’s interests and taken care of everyone’s needs. Despite the best of intentions, unless you have the proper guidance it can be easy to unintentionally disinherit a child or step-child. Here are two scenarios:
1) Disinherited Stepchildren: If you pass away without an estate plan, your property will be distributed among your “heirs at law” based on a formula provided under state law. Your “heirs at law” are your nearest living relatives (usually your spouse and biological children), as determined by the state. Because step-children are included in this list of relatives, they’re automatically disinherited if you die without an effective Will or Trust.
2) Disinherited Biological Children: A Will that simply leaves all of your assets to your spouse may seem like a good idea. After all, won’t your spouse use the property to take care of your kids, and then make sure it’s given to your kids when he or she passes away? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the way it works out. There’s a risk that your spouse will just take your property and leave your kids out in the cold, although the reality is usually less sinister than that. There’s always the possibility of your assets being lost if your spouse remarries and later divorces. Or, your kids could lose their inheritance if your spouse simply doesn’t have an effective estate plan when he or she passes away.
What’s the best way to make sure your spouse is taken care of, and all your children are provided for in the way you choose? Talk to an estate planning attorney about using a trust as the basis of your estate plan. A Trust is a flexible solution that can offer protection for all the members of your family, and your estate planning attorney can help you tailor a Trust to your specific needs.