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How Does a Blended Family Affect Estate Planning?

In the modern landscape of love and marriage, couples often bring their own assets -- and children from previous relationships -- into new marriages.

The fact is that blended families now outnumber traditional long-term, one-spouse unions, and the ratio will continue to grow if our current trends are any indication. These families present unique challenges for those who want to ensure for their loved ones and future generations. If someone isn’t cautious with their estate planning, their assets may circumvent family members that they want to provide for or go to ex-spouses to manage for their minor children that they would not have wanted them to go to.

These are “blended family” issues that couples and families may face and should iron out before they become contentious issues after the fact.

Who Gets Your Assets if You Don’t Have a Will?

Dying without a will is considered dying intestate. In this case, California intestate law succession determines how your estate will be divided, depending on how you and your spouse hold property and how many children you have.

If you die without a will in California, your current spouse will inherit all of your community property-- any property you acquired together while you were married -- and a portion of any of your separate property, depending on how many children you have. Any property you held separately will be divided between your legal children and your current spouse. Stepchildren will not inherit anything unless they are legally adopted.

Another scenario to consider is that you may have blended all assets with the new spouse, making it all community property. If you predecease your spouse, if there is no will or prenuptial agreement in place, that spouse will inherit the entire estate, leaving any biological children from a former marriage out of the equation.

While this may work well for some families, in many cases, this would not be the way you would choose to divide up your estate. Consequently, it’s crucial for those who are now into subsequent marriages to speak with an experienced California estate planning attorney to understand the implications to their estate and develop a individually tailored estate plan.

How Having an Updated Estate Plan is Critical (Especially in Cases of Blended Families!)

Unfortunately, not having an updated will or no plan in place at all opens up the possibility of loved ones being disinherited or contesting the will after you have passed away.

Having a carefully conceived estate plan, or an updated one if your last plan was prepared during a former marriage, is critical, especially when you have a blended family. It avoids estate disputes and ensures that your estate is distributed in the way you would want. With a valid will or updated estate plan, all individuals are provided for as you choose and not just left to the courts.

At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, our experienced Santa Ana estate planning attorneys will discuss your options with you and craft a plan that provides for all your loved ones in a way that you would choose, thereby preventing contests and disputes. Call us at (714) 694-1200 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning options.