Do You Have a Blended Family? Estate Planning is Critical for You
People with blended families have the greatest need for estate planning of any clients I see. Most people have no idea what Texas law provides for the distribution of their property if they die without a Will (intestate). With blended families, the issues can become complicated and the result may be totally different than what the deceased person might have wanted.
What Happens To Inheritance In Blended Families Without Wills
If you lack a Will, living trust, or some other form of estate planning document when you die, and have not designated a beneficiary, the assets you own at the time of your death will pass by intestacy. Intestacy means that state law (either where you live or where some types of property are located) will govern who inherits what from your estate. This may not be the way you want your property to pass. If that's the case, you should consider the benefits of having a Will made.
In Texas, in a blended family, a surviving spouse keeps his or her one-half of the community property, but the decedent's half will go to children from the deceased spouse's prior marriage, if any, not the surviving spouse if there is no Will providing otherwise.
Separate property (what you receive by gift or inheritance generally) has even more complicated rules for distribution on death where there is no Will, and depends on whether it is real property (real estate or oil and gas interests) or personal property (personal possessions, furniture, jewelry, etc.).
Usually, a person wants to leave what they own at death to the surviving spouse. If there are children by a prior marriage, this will not happen unless estate planning has been done. This can cause serious family problems.
The surviving step-parent and step-children may not be on the best of terms. Forcing them to share interests in the deceased spouse's property can lead to really sticky situations. Fights can arise over who occupies the property, who pays for expenses, whether to sell or keep the property, and like issues. If there are also children of the second marriage, the formulas for intestate inheritance are even more complicated.
In addition, a step-child does not inherit from a step-parent, without a Will providing for this, unless the step-parent adopted the stepchild. This may not be what you want, especially if you have raised the step-child as your own. If you want your step-children to inherit anything from you, you must spell this out in a Will or trust.
Here's how property passes if you do not have a Will, trust, or beneficiary designation:
How To Provide For Your Estate To Pass As You Desire If You Have A Blended Family
Providing for everyone you love can get tricky. Most people want to provide for their second spouse as well as their children, either by a prior marriage or the current marriage. What you want may not happen, though, unless you have done the right estate planning beforehand.
If you know there are specific items, specially separate property you owned before the second marriage, that you want to go to your children from the prior marriage, you should provide for a list of those things to accompany your will.
If you owned a home or other real estate before a second marriage, you may want to allow your surviving spouse to continue to live there for life or until remarriage, but then ultimately to go to your children. These arrangements would have to be spelled out in your estate planning documents.
If you are ready to speak with an estate planning attorney about drawing up a power of attorney, please contact Adair M. Buckner today for a free consultation*.
*(The free consultation does not cover actual review of documents or giving legal advice on a specific situation.)
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