It is estimated that more than half of all Americans either have been or will be part of a blended family at some point during their lives, whether through remarriage, re-coupling or cohabitation. If you are in this situation, you’ll want to think carefully about your estate plan to make sure it is set up to provide for the people closest to you.
The first consideration should be your will. If you don’t have one, then your property will pass upon your death according to Connecticut’s law of intestacy, which may not carry out your wishes regarding all intended beneficiaries. For example, stepchildren who you never legally adopted would not automatically receive a share of your property.
In addition, a simple will may not be adequate in the case of a blended family. A simple will — which usually leaves everything to one’s spouse — may be fine for people who were only married once and have kids only from that one marriage, but let’s say you have a child from a previous marriage. If you make a simple will, leaving everything to your current spouse, he or she could cut out those kids and leave all of your assets to his or her children, to a new spouse or to anyone else. To prevent this, your will should spell out who will be your estate beneficiaries and in what proportions.
Trusts can be effective estate planning tools for blended families. You could set up a trust that leaves your assets to your spouse for the remainder of his or her life, directing that your children will receive your property upon your the spouse’s death. The spouse is prevented from selling or otherwise transferring the trust property and his or her heirs will have no right to shares of it.
Your spouse’s age is an important issue to consider when creating a trust. If your current spouse is significantly younger than you, it could be many years before he or she dies, which means your kids would not receive any of your property until then. One possible way to avoid this delay is to transfer property to your children while you are still alive, which is known as an inter vivos gift.
Estate planning for blended families may be more involved than usual, but it doesn’t have to be hard. The attorneys at Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, L.L.C. would be happy to meet with you, listen to your estate planning goals and create the documents to help you achieve them. Get started by calling 203-745-0942 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.
Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, L.L.C. is located in Hamden, CT and serves clients in and around North Haven, Hamden, Waterbury, Bethany, Milford, Wallingford, Prospect, Woodbridge, Northford, Madison, Beacon Falls, Branford, Cheshire, North Branford, East Haven, Naugatuck, Meriden, Ansonia and New Haven County.
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