Today’s family looks much different than those from just 50 years ago. People no longer feel obligated to stay in a marriage that is not working, divorcees sometimes remarry, partners opt for cohabitation over remarriage, and there may be children from one marriage or both. While, in many ways, blended families are a positive thing – especially for kids – it does make estate planning much more complicated than it once was. A living trust can mitigate against many of these issues. Learn how with help from the following.
Potential Blended Family Pitfalls
People can cause some serious problems by either not having an estate plan or creating an ineffective one. The chief issue is that heirs could experience unnecessary financial difficulty while trying to muddle through the expensive and arduous probate process. Several other pitfalls must be addressed as well, however, especially in blended family estate planning. Consider some of the following possible examples:
- A father intended to leave everything to his children, but he failed to check his beneficiaries and update his estate plan. His home and other assets ended up going to his former wife.
- A step-child expected to receive an inheritance, but the estate plan was unclear and state law does not provide for step-children. They receive nothing;
- A child inherits their father’s antique rifle, but it was promised to another child from a previous marriage;
- A husband dies and leaves his assets to his wife. When she passes away, she leaves everything to her children from a previous marriage. His children inherit nothing.
A Living Trust Can Mitigate the Risks
While it may be impossible to remove all risk of heirs fighting over an inheritance, there are several strategies that guarantors can use to mitigate against the possible damage of probate, tax consequences, family squabbles, debtors, and other common issues. The most effective tool is the living trust (revocable, irrevocable, marital, etc.). Each type works a little differently, but the primary goal is to ensure that the right person receives the right assets. Set up properly, a trust can also mitigate against spendthrift issues, ensure that even extended branches of family receive assets, and can even be specifically designated for certain expenses or needs (such as with college students, special needs children, or an ex-spouse who happens to be the other parent of your minor child).
Why Plan Now?
No one wants to think about their death or the death of their spouse, and many dream of the death of their ex-spouse - which is why it can be easy to put off planning for it until you start to age. Sadly, not planning now can have severe consequences if an accident or incapacitation occurs to you, your spouse, or your ex-spouse. Avoid the consequences of ineffective and non-existent estate plans by contacting an experienced wills and trusts lawyer today.
At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, we work in your family’s best interests. Dedicated and experienced, our Arlington Heights wills and trusts attorneys
wills and trusts attorneys can handle even the most complex of situations with skill. Call 847-934-6000 and schedule your personalized consultation today.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.