You might imagine yourself as part of a “big happy family,” and while that may be true, it is an unfortunate reality that many of these situations turn volatile when a loved one passes. There may be a lot of sorrow shared amongst family members, but there can also be a lot of tension surrounding the deceased’s will and trust. This is particularly true in circumstances that involve blended families. When faced with the responsibility of determining inheritance after the death of a loved one, even the closest family members face the reality that they may not see eye-to-eye on the estate of the deceased.
What defines a “blended family?”
Blended families take many forms and typically include second marriages where one or both spouses have children from the previous marriage. When trust and wills are not comprised properly, the grantor runs the risk of unintentionally disinheriting members of their family from the will, or locking their family members into will and trust disputes for years to come.
Tips to Avoid Litigation
Who Will be Included in Your Trust?
Before creating your will or trust, it is important to determine which members of your family you would like to leave your inheritance to. All families are different, and it is important to protect those who are important to you. If you choose to provide for your previous spouses or current and previous stepchildren, you will need to make this clear in your estate plan. If you wish to leave different assets to different members of your family, your intentions must be clear in your planning. Unfortunately, we have seen will and trust contests of seemingly well-defined estate plans.
Consider a Prenuptial Agreement
California is a community property state. Often spouses will co-mingle separate and community property, creating ambiguity as to the nature of the property. While a prenup may not be right for every relationship, spouses involved in second or more marriages may opt to enter into a prenuptial agreement before tieing the knot. While this legal agreement does not replace the need for a will or trust, it will set the expectations of the relationship from the beginning. The intentions of the prenup should be consistent with what is stated in your trust. Estate planning documents can also be used to clearly distinguish community and separate assets.
Determine a Power of Attorney
The conversation of a power of attorney can be difficult for your family but should not be avoided. A blended family means more members to consider and make aware of your wishes. By determining a power of attorney, you protect your own wishes and protect your expanded family from the many issues that may arise from incapacitation.
Discuss Your Options
A blended family with multiple beneficiaries requires a more complex will or trust. Preparing for this situation in advance can help set up your family to avoid arguing over your estate once you are gone. If you and your family are currently in dispute over a loved one’s estate, the experienced trust litigation attorneys at Gokal Law Group are here to help. Abbas Gokal and his team specialize in representing clients in trust litigation and probate matters and use their experience to protect your rights. For more information or to discuss your case, contact us, or give us a call at 949-753-9100.