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Blended Families – The Perils of Not Planning by Greg Coffey

Estate planning can be daunting if you or your spouse has children from a prior relationship. For some, it seems so complicated that they are frozen from taking any action.

This lack of planning is unfortunate. However, it is easily (and painlessly) remedied by talking about your blended family’s circumstances with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Without planning, then you are playing the “death lottery.” If you have children from a previous relationship and are married when you die, your spouse receives all of your assets. Then, if your spouse dies after you, all of your combined assets go to his or her children, leaving your own children empty-handed.

Not only are the first-to-die’s descendants left with nothing, there may even be heirs of the surviving spouse whom neither of you wanted to receive any of your assets. (Heirs generally are the deceased person’s descendants, or, if no descendants, his or her next of kin.)

In this death lottery, whoever is an heir of the second spouse to die wins and the children (or other descendants or next of kin) of the first-to-die are cut out, lose, and receive nothing. In a tragic accident where both spouses die, who wins the lottery may be decided by which spouse lives just a few minutes longer than the other spouse.

Instead of taking your chances with the death lottery, ensure that you have control over your assets.

Begin a discussion of your family situation with a lawyer who is an experienced estate planner. The attorney will explore various outcomes and objectives you may not have considered. He or she will also provide information about planning alternatives that may be more desirable than what you were once considering.

Eventually (usually in the same meeting), you will hit upon a specific plan that satisfies your needs and concerns. Along the way, you will also learn of pitfalls of joint tenancy planning and ill-advised beneficiary designations. Marital trusts may well be part of the discussion, though not necessarily part of the solution.

The facts and circumstances of your blended family should encourage you to plan.

Now is the time to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws and listens to you. At Mathis, Marifian & Richter, we have a number of quality estate planning attorneys who are eager to help. Call 618-656-2244 to start the process of planning for your blended family’s future.

With nearly 30 years of diligence in law, Greg Coffey is an experienced estate planning attorney in Illinois who works to accomplish your objectives as simply and tax-efficiently as possible.

Professional Services Disclaimer: Please note that the information presented here is as an educational service, and while it contains information about legal issues, it is not legal advice. No warranty is made regarding the applicability of the information presented to a particular client situation, and the information set forth is not a substitute for original legal research, analysis and drafting for a particular client situation.