On its face, estate planning may seem like a relatively easy process. After all, you’re just specifying how you want your assets to be distributed upon your passing, right? While that certainly may be true to a great extent, the truth is that estate planning can be much more intricate than you think. This is especially true if you have a large estate or a complex family dynamic.
Even individuals who are part of a blended family can end up facing estate planning challenges. Far too often, these individuals simply choose to forego an estate plan, or they opt for something simple that isn’t tailored to suit their needs. So, why does someone who is in a blended family need a holistic estate plan? Here are some reasons:
- To avoid intestate succession: If you pass away without an estate plan, then your assets will be distributed in accordance with state law. In Colorado, this means that there’s a significant chance that your spouse will inherit everything unless there are children from a previous relationship, in which case the distribution is different depending on which spouse has children from a previous relationship. What’s important to remember, though, is that your spouse is under no obligation to leave his or her inheritance to your children, which means that your children could end up missing out on the bulk of your estate.
- To avoid out of date estate planning documents: A lot of people create their initial estate plan and then set it aside, pleased that they’ve accomplished that task. But the fact is that you should be revisiting your estate plan periodically to ensure that it mirrors your needs. This is especially true if new love interests or children come into the picture, or if relationships end or become contentious. In a blended family, you may have more relationships, marriages, divorces, and deaths to keep track of, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re updating your estate plan frequently to avoid unintended consequences.
- To avoid family conflict: Your estate plan says a lot more than just how you want your assets distributed. It also says who you care about and what you hope for their future. Without a clear estate plan, especially in a blended family, your intentions become unclear, which leaves your family in the precarious position of trying to figure out what you intended for your estate. There may be a lot of evidence that favors one distribution plan, but additional evidence that supports another. Disputes over your intent and how your assets should be distributed can lead to conflict that stretches out for years and ruins your family dynamics. You can easily avoid that, though, with sound estate planning.
Creating the estate plan that is right for you and your family
There are a lot of things that you can do to make sure that you’re properly addressing estate planning in your blended family. To start, you might want to simply sit down with your loved ones and discuss your intentions so that there are no surprises later down the road. Then, you can educate yourself about your estate planning options. If you’d like assistance in that area, then you may want to turn to an experienced estate planning legal professional who can help guide you through process. Hopefully then you can make the informed decisions that are right for you and your family, ensuring that your loved ones will be cared for as much as possible when the time comes.