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Back to the Basics – Wills and the Blended Family

Ensuring that your family knows what happens to your property and assets after your death is always a challenge. A Will can help make the decision less challenging and provide solid guidance to your family at a difficult time. A Will is a legal document, which decides who receives your real and personal property at your death. A Will can also be used to select an estate executor. The executor is the person, or people, you choose to oversee and manage the distribution of assets from your estate.  Many people choose to have a will so that they are able to adequately provide for their children and spouse after their death.

If you do not have a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of your state. Intestacy laws reflect lawmaker’s attempt to figure out how you would like to distribute property and assets among your children and surviving spouse. These laws are complex in most states and become even more complex for non-traditional and blended families – the law can make a wrong decision for your family.  

Blended Family

In many states, if a blended family spouse dies without a Will and there are children from a previous marriage, then property and assets are divided into one half for the surviving spouse and the remaining half is divided among the surviving children. The division of the estate is based on the length of the marriage and the age of the children. The division may not appropriately care for younger children who live with the previous spouse or may provide a disproportionate amount of funds to the surviving spouse to care for children from the current marriage.

Blended Families Adopted and Informally Adopted Children

Blended families where children are adopted also face challenges. Intestate laws treat children adopted by both spouses as if they had been born to the adoptive parents. If a will states that property and assets are to be divided among all children, then adopted children are automatically included in the division of assets. However, children adopted informally and raised as if they are a member of the family but have not been adopted are not considered by intestacy laws and may not inherit property and assets as you intend.

What should you do next?

A Will is the simplest way for you to create a unique decision, which allocates property and assets between your surviving spouse, children, adopted or informally adopted children. Our attorney heave  wealth of experience in estate planning. A simple email or phone call to schedule an estate planning consultation will allow you begin developing a strategy to make the right choice for your blended family.

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