When a New Jersey resident remarries, he or she will take on a new set of family relationships. It is not uncommon for married couples to have a blend of stepchildren and shared children, as well as any number of connections to extended family members. This can create a unique set of estate planning needs, and it is important to understand what can occur if a comprehensive plan is not put into place.
When an individual dies without a will, his or her estate will enter the probate process. This is a legal scenario in which a court will determine how one’s assets are distributed according to inheritance laws. In most cases, the result of probate will be the bulk of assets passing down to the surviving spouse. At that point, he or she will have no requirements on how those assets are used or further distributed, which can lead to problems.
One of the most common areas of contention arises when a surviving spouse chooses to pass on wealth to the children shared with the deceased spouse, while leaving out the deceased spouse’s children from a previous union. In many cases, this is not what the deceased spouse intended to take place. A similar problem can arise when one’s intent was to pass down differing amounts to various children, but the surviving spouse does not carry out that plan.
Failing to create a comprehensive estate plan places the surviving spouse under a great deal of pressure during what is an already difficult time. He or she might be challenged by children or stepchildren, and the matter can even lead to a court battle, which can deplete the assets that were intended as inheritance. A kinder approach is to discuss how assets should be distributed, then draft a plan that guides that process.
Blended families in New Jersey can take advantage of a wide array of estate planning solutions that can suit a variety of needs. Once the process is complete, both spouses will feel a sense of relief in the knowledge that this important task has been handled. When the time comes to set those plans into motion, the family can come together to support each other in their loss, rather than debating what their loved one might have wanted.
Source: thespectrum.com, “Estate planning for blended families more complex“, Scott Halvorsen, July 3, 2015