If you have a blended family, estate planning can be a challenge. Figuring out who you want to include in your will and trusts takes a little more thought when you’ve blended two (or more!) families into one. But estate planning for a blended family is even more important than a non-blended family, because there isn’t always a clear legal connection between who you consider “family.” At Hermance Law, we assist families of all different blends and backgrounds in making plans so that their funds, homes, property, and other assets are distributed per their wishes. To create an estate plan for your unique family needs, we need to understand where you fall in your blended family. Schedule an appointment with a blended family estate planning attorney here at Hermance Law to discuss the right plan for your family needs.
Estate Planning Attorney for Blended Families in California
The truth is that the classic nuclear family paradigm no longer exists. Blended families are the new normal. Studies have revealed that about 40% of families in America are blended, with approximately 13% of marriages being remarriages. On average, 1,300 blended families are created daily, and 16% of children live in blended families. Things can get highly complicated for blended families without proper estate planning. Was there a will from a previous marriage? Was the will updated? Did you update your will after your child’s birth, or after you married your new spouse? Do you have your former spouse named as beneficiary of a trust? Do you have grandchildren? Are there children with special needs? As you can see, in blended families, estate planning can get complicated quickly. That’s why you need an experienced team of estate planning lawyers to help you through the process.
What Happens to My Assets if I Pass Away With No Will in California?
Intestate succession law in California provides how your assets will be allocated if you pass away and you don’t have an estate plan in place. According to these intestacy statutes, your spouse will receive all of the community property, half of the individual property if you have one child, and a third of your individual property if you have two or more children. Maybe this does not seem like much of a problem on the face of it, but what if you specifically promised your son your art collection and your daughter that Chanel bag that was given to you by your mother? You would benefit from making a will with specific wishes that certain personal items go to particular children, as well establishing trusts to be sure other assets are distributed according to your wishes upon your death.
Adoption of Stepchildren
Unfortunately, stepchildren are not considered “children” for California intestacy laws. Only naturally born children or those who have been legally adopted are included in this definition. A child who is adopted legally acquires the same inheritance rights as a biological child at the time of the adoption. Please note that adopting a child completely ousts them from any inheritance they would have been entitled to from their biological parents. If you do wish to write an adopted child out of your will, you must use unambiguous wording in your will. But adult adopted children can be disinherited or written out of a will, just like a biological child. That’s why it’s important to create an estate plan tailored to your stepchildren and step-grandchildren.
Understand How a New Marriage Impacts Inheritance
Are you married to someone younger than you? Do you worry that your children may not be covered if you die before them? This is a very valid concern. Your new spouse is not required to distribute the assets they inherit from you to your biological children from a previous relationship. Without proper estate planning, your new spouse is also free to exclude your children from receiving a share of the estate by giving their inheritance to their biological children. So if you want to make sure your children aren’t left out of their rightful inheritance, you need to contact an estate planning lawyer at Hermance Law to clearly spell out your wishes in your will and establish trusts in your children’s names.
Estate Planning for Real Estate in a Blended Family
The way your real estate properties are titled is very important. Suppose your family home is owned jointly with a right of survivorship. Whether you’ve left the house as a biological child, it automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant following your death. This is the proper approach to deed your property if you want to leave your house to your spouse after you pass away. However, you should consider a different type of ownership, like a tenancy in common, if you wish to leave your house to someone else. To be safe, speak to one of the family estate planning attorneys at our law firm for advice on what you can do to make sure your property is inherited by its rightful heirs upon your death.
Estate Planning Options for Blended Families in California
Ask one of our expert California trust administration attorneys about establishing trusts as part of your estate plan. You can designate your spouse as the beneficiary of a trust, enabling them to receive income from it until their death. The trust’s remaining assets are then allocated to designated beneficiaries, which may be your biological children or whomever you name as beneficiaries. Establishing trusts is one approach to help ensure your estate wishes are granted even after death.
Experienced Family Estate Planning in California
Estate planning for blended families is much more than making a will. Including biological children, step-children, adopted children, and extended family in your estate plan can be tricky. But don’t worry, at Hermance Law we are here to help.
Here are some of the services we offer:
You need a estate plan that is as blended and unique as your family. Schedule a free consultation with an estate planning attorney at Hermance Law to discuss your estate options today.