Many people are familiar with this common horror story: a parent remarries later in life to a person with a family of his or her own; when the parent passes away, their estate goes entirely to their new spouse through the laws of intestacy.
When the new spouse then dies, the cumulative estate goes to his or her children, leaving the original parent’s children without their rightful inheritance. This happens all too often, and usually leads to nasty court battles and hard feelings all around. However, estate planning lawyers in Orange County want people to know that with proper planning, these issues can be avoided.
While it may not always be pleasant thinking about what happens if you pass away, Orange County estate planning attorneys strongly advise those who are entering into a blended family situation to consider the following:
- Truly think about who you want to provide for and in what manner. You may want to leave everything to your children, or you may want to provide for your new spouse, or you may even want to leave a legacy for each member of your blended family. The decision is up to you, so think carefully about it.
- Speak to your family about any heirlooms or items they may have a personal connection with and may want after your passing – if possible, make it known in your estate plan that certain family members should receive certain items.
- Consider the possibility that you may pass first, but also that your spouse may pass before you. While you may be preoccupied with protecting your own legacy, consider what may happen if the roles are reversed and your family ends up with your spouse’s family’s inheritance – then make plans with your spouse to ensure each side will achieve a satisfying outcome.
- Review your insurance policies, estate planning documents, and beneficiary forms for financial accounts to ensure they are all up to date – and more importantly, that you are not leaving funds for an ex-husband or wife. There are many, many cases of insurance payouts going to an ex-spouse who has had nothing to do with the deceased for years instead of going to the current spouse, all because the policies were forgotten and never updated.
- When consulting with an Orange County estate planning lawyer, make sure they have experience helping blended families in these matters. There are many techniques that can be used, such as the use of certain Trusts, to ensure all members of the family are adequately taken care of and all of your wishes are met, but it takes an attorney practiced with such matters to make sure these things are done correctly.
If you have questions about estate planning for your blended family, or you wish to update your estate plan to account for your blended family, please contact us at (949) 260-1400 to set up a consultation