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Living trust a good estate planning option for combined families

A great many families in New Jersey are comprised of a blend of biological and stepchildren, in which one or both spouses have been married previously. This combination can lead to a rich and fulfilling mix of family connections, and often simply expands the number of people with whom a spouse is able to share their love. When considering estate planning options, however, a combined family has needs that differ from a more traditional family in which all of the children are shared by the husband and wife.

For example, a husband and wife could both write wills that leave all assets to the surviving spouse, with the instructions that upon that spouse's eventual death, all remaining assets would be divided between the surviving children of both parties. However, the surviving spouse could change his or her mind after the first spouse passes away, and could change their will. In this way, an individual's biological children could be cut out from any form if inheritance, and the surviving spouse will have committed no crime in the eyes of the law.

A better solution comes in the form of a living trust, in which a higher degree of flexibility is possible. With a living trust, both spouses can agree that the surviving spouse will be taken care of for the duration of his or her life. However, all assets that are held within the trust would then be passed on to the other heirs.

Within a living trust, both New Jersey spouses are usually named as co-trustees. Changes can be made while both parties are alive, but once one spouse passes away the trust becomes irrevocable and cannot be altered in any way. This estate planning solution allows both spouses the peace of mind to know that both their partner and children will be taken care of as agreed upon.

Source: hometownlife.com, "Living trust offers flexibility in estate planning", Rick Bloom, Feb. 1, 2015

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