Estate Planning for Blended Families and Common Mistakes

Meeting the person you’d like to spend the rest of your life with in a second marriage is a joyous occasion. Often, one or each person has children from a previous marriage or relationship. In a blended family, the responsibility to take care of the children falls on both parents and the new spouse in many cases. When you have an estate to settle between the both of you and your blended children, California families need to plan for the future.

If You Die Without A Will

To die “intestate” means to die without having a will. If you live outside of California, the laws may be different. In California, the estate goes to your descendants that are the next of kin.

Add Stepchildren to An Estate

Stepchildren are not legally considered to be “next of kin.” They usually do not have the right to inherit property if you die intestate. Having a legal will circumvents this law to include them in your estate plan. There are two ways to go about this. By law, adopted children are automatically included in an estate plan as next of kin. This is one way to include stepchildren into the plan. Another way is to have them written into a will to include them into the inheritance.

There’s some common pitfalls and mistakes many people make when it comes to estate planning. These are: 

1. Not planning at all

If you don’t plan on who gets what in your estate, then the government decides for your relatives in probate court. Instead of leaving a lot of legal fees, taxes, and hassle on your family, plan ahead with a written will. You can decide how you want to divide your assets. Having a will also relieves your family of the struggle and burden so they are able to have time to grieve.

2. Not assigning contingent beneficiaries

Assigning a contingent beneficiary will allow that next beneficiary to have an asset in the unfortunate event the first beneficiary passes away before you do. If you don’t assign a contingent beneficiary, the court will ultimately decide who receives the asset.

3. Not adding assets to a trust

There is often a long probate process in place if you don’t add expensive items as trust assets. These high value items that are overlooked must go through the probate process.

4. Not tracking assets that are digital

The digital domain is also considered an asset. From social media, to accounts, to websites, to communications or business services, all of these items are assets. Many families are not able to access any of these assets after their loved one passes away. Keep one sheet of all of your accounts and passwords to make it easier for your family to access the accounts once you pass away.

For more help with your estate planning, contact one of our Palm Springs estate planning lawyers for a consultation.