If your family includes children from a previous marriage, step-children and a new spouse or any of these, dying just got a lot more complicated! The last thing any of us wants is for our loved ones to be at odds after we pass away but blended families often face hurt beyond the loss of a beloved’s death. Making sure your last wishes are carried out means you have to take extra measures.
Blended Families and Inheritance
Christine Brown, an elder law attorney, wants you to know that the state does not have your best interests in mind, but you can still ensure your last wishes will be carried out.
“Let’s say, for example, you are remarried but have kids from your previous relationship,” said Brown. “If you suddenly died without a will or trust in place, you might assume that the state would naturally allow your children to have their part of your inheritance. Not true.”
According to Brown this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Under the laws of succession, your new spouse gets to inherit the majority of your assets and he or she would not be required to share one red cent with your kids,” said Brown. “Remember the story of Cinderella? Her fate is actually a real-life nightmare that many families experience when they face a crisis without a plan in place!”
Updating Your Needs
How long has it been since you’ve reviewed your life insurance and any pension plans? Is your ex-spouse still listed as the beneficiary? Were your children young when you drafted your will but now they’re grown and your new spouse is not even mentioned in your will? According to Brown, these are the wrinkles you’ll need to iron out.
Brown says to begin by creating a will that reflects your wishes now.
“If you don’t have a will already, this is the best place to start to safeguard your family and assets,” said Brown. “Remember, without a will in place, your family will be forced to follow the state’s ‘default plan’ under intestate laws that will result in some of the nightmarish situations.”
Setting up a living trust will also ensure your wishes will not be usurped.
“A trust is a great way to protect against the possibility that your surviving spouse will change your plans after you pass,” said Brown. “You and your spouse can each set up trusts that will provide for each other and then benefit the kids after you both pass away. Additionally, in tense family situations, a neutral trustee can also be put in place to oversee your family’s inheritance to keep things fair and civil.”
Review all your beneficiary designations.
“Make sure to review any payable-on-death accounts, insurance policies, retirement policies, etc., and think carefully about whom you name as beneficiaries,” said Brown. “Also, make sure your ex-spouse is no longer named as beneficiary on your life insurance, IRAs, 401ks, or stocks, as he or she would still have the right to inherit your funds despite a divorce.”
Elder care law experts are uniquely experienced in all the scenarios of dealing with wills and trusts of blended families, so get the best help possible so these nightmares won’t occur.