If you are re-married with children from a previous relationship, or if you married someone who brought children from a previous relationship to your marriage, there are likely urgent estate planning issues that, together as a family, you’ll want to address with a Tampa will and trust lawyer.
The state of Florida and most states across the country do not properly account for the needs of blended families when it comes to passing down an estate. For example, if you die without a plan in place, the state will order that your next of kin, usually the spouse, will be entitled to the majority of your assets. This puts your children (or even step kids you may want to put into your estate) in a sticky situation with no real rights to the inheritance you had hoped to leave them.
Or, consider the alternative. Perhaps you have a significant life insurance policy. Maybe after a previous divorce, you changed your beneficiary to your children to ensure they were taken care of if you passed away. Down the road, you remarried and started a new life with your spouse. You now have joint assets, joint debt, and other bills that your spouse would struggle to carry on his or her own if you suddenly died.
In your mind, you may be thinking that your spouse would get a portion of your life insurance policy, which would leave him or her in good shape if something happened to you. But, with your children still named as beneficiaries of your life insurance, they would stand to inherit 100% of the funds, and they are not legally required to give your spouse a dime. A named beneficiary trumps even the wishes you set forth in your will or trust!
These mistakes are made every single day, and hopefully you can see the real mess and hardships that not having a proper plan in place can cause for blended families. Remember, grief can bring out the worst in people. Add to that additional complications that arise in blended families and the floodgates of chaos, family fighting, and legal wars are bound to blow open. The following tips can help you avoid such trouble for your family if something happens to you.
Create a Will
A thorough review and audit of your estate plan can help you make sure that your assets go to the people that you choose. If you don’t have a will already, this is the best place to start to safeguard your family and assets. 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 I outlined above.
Set up a Trust
A trust is a great way to protect against the possibility that your surviving spouse will change your plans after you pass. 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 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. 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.
Get Help from a Tampa Will and Trust Lawyer
If you are in a blended family, be sure to consult with a qualified Tampa will and trust lawyer before deciding on the best solution to protect your assets and loved ones. Planning for these scenarios requires detailed knowledge of federal, state, and probate laws, as well as the unique dynamics of your family. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call us at (813) 438-8503.